We pull our boots on with both hands
but we can’t punch ourselves awake and all I can do
is stand on the curb and say
Sorry about the blood in your mouth. I wish it was mine.
- Richard Siken, from Little Beast
The moment between silence and violence looks a lot like the nighttime.
Korra’s footsteps fall without a sound, the darkness of the night wrapping around her as she makes her way around the back of the seedy nightclub. Cracked neon lights flicker overhead, their colors bright and bleeding.
Somewhere in the distance, a dog starts howling. Korra takes that as a bad sign. She shakes her head, shuts her eyes for a moment, tries to focus.
She can hear music and laughter from inside the club, the noise sounding like it’s half a world away. Out here, there’s nothing but the quiet rush of traffic, the occasional call of a siren. In there, there’s nothing but loud and unapologetic revelry, and silence where heartbeats should be.
Korra pushes her back against the cold brick wall of the building hard enough that it hurts, a dull pain like the ache of missing. The flashbacks start to come, falling like ash from the sky, and she pushes them away.
“Korra?” says Bolin, low-pitched and steady, and Korra blows out a breath of relief. His voice is a grounding force, and she raises her hand to her left ear.
“Here,” she says, pressing the comm button on her earpiece. “I’m in position.”
“Same here,” Mako says, voice crackling slightly. “We’re clear on the plan of attack, right?”
Bolin sighs heavily. “Mako, we’ve been over it a million times.”
“I know,” Mako says defensively. “I’m just double checking because…” He trails off, but Korra hears what goes unsaid: because remember what happened last time we messed up the plan?
The thought of it sends a stab of pain through Korra’s chest, and she grits her teeth.
“Enough, both of you,” she says. “We know the plan. Let’s move.”
“I’m taking point,” Bolin says. “Entering now.”
“Ready,” Mako says.
“Ready,” Korra repeats, and the confirmation hangs in the air like a loaded weapon. There’s another moment of quiet, one last shred of peace in the darkness, and then the night explodes.
There’s the crash of a wooden door splintering inwards on itself, and a wave of heat blasts out the back door. Korra winces against the feeling; once it’s dissipated, she pushes the door fully open and runs into the club.
It’s a mess of chaos inside, all neon lights and shattered bottles and pushing bodies. Korra whips out her stake and starts taking down vampires, one after the other, each kill a neat stab through the heart.
“Almost clear here,” Mako says over their commlink. “What about you guys?”
“Having a - difficult moment,” Bolin replies, sounding out of breath. “We’ll get there sooner or later. Just let me - ” There’s a loud burst of static, then his voice reappears. “We’re good.”
Korra ignores the conversation, turns to the vampires near her. She vaults the bar in one smooth motion, ignoring the sting in her hands as tiny shards of glass bury themselves in the skin like diamonds in rocky earth. The pain is almost pleasant, in a way; it reminds her of what she’s here for, of what there is to lose.
“Not you again,” a vampire snarls, grabbing at her arm. Korra ducks easily, bringing a hand up and staking him through the heart as he doubles over.
Three months ago, she would have bantered with him. Now, she doesn’t bother. There’s nothing left in her that’s light enough to make a joke.
“Fuck you,” the next vamp spits at her. “The boss is gonna have your head once she finds out about this.”
Korra decks him in the face, then stabs him so hard that she skewers the one behind him as well. There’s a certain sense of pleasure that comes with a good night of slaying; the rhythm of the fight pulses between her ribs, reminds her that she’s alive. The familiarity of the stake in her hand and the bones breaking beneath her fists make her feel more normal than anything else has in the last three months.
She rips through five vamps in about thirty seconds, her stake moving in a deadly whirlwind of death. She’s almost enjoying herself, until she gets to the last one standing.
“You’re going down, bitch,” the vamp says. Her fangs are bared, her eyes flashing red.“The new boss won’t let you run free anymore. She’ll have you dead within a week.”
Korra freezes, every nerve in her body feeling like a livewire. “What do you mean, new boss?”
“Yeah, you heard me,” the vamp sneers. “She’s going to make fucking mincemeat out of you, if I don’t get there first.”
She lunges at Korra, fangs glinting in the dim light. Korra neatly sidesteps and stakes her in one quick movement, letting her explode into a shower of dust.
When Korra straightens up again, the club is silent; the only sounds now are the flickering buzz of cracked lights and the light clinking of glass shards falling to the floor.
“All clear,” Korra calls out loud, not bothering to use the earpiece.
Mako and Bolin make their way over to her, their boots crunching heavily over broken bottles. Bolin’s hair is a mess and he’s got a purple bruise starting to spread over the left side of his face. Korra tries to smile at them, fails.
The corner of Bolin’s mouth turns down, worry written across his face like a poem. “Korra, do you want to come home with us? We can order takeout, or I can make ramen, and we can just relax.”
For a moment, Korra is tempted. There’s a yes on the tip of her tongue as she automatically glances over her shoulder, but it goes unsaid as the realization of empty space crashes in.
“No,” she says. “It’s okay. I’m gonna go back to the apartment and get some sleep.”
Bolin looks like he’s going to say something else, but Mako subtly holds out a hand to stop him. Korra catalogues the movement, but doesn’t mention it.
“One of the vamps mentioned that they had a new boss,” she says instead.
Mako frowns. “A shift in power? Recently?”
“Sounds like it.”
“We can bring it up with Lin tomorrow,” Mako says. “For tonight, let’s get some rest.”
Korra nods, and walks out the gaping hole where the front door of the club used to be. She doesn’t look back.
The streets are quiet as she moves through them, taking the long way home. She catches herself leaving room for someone else to walk next to her, and it makes her ribs ache with melancholy.
There’s no one for her to walk with, not anymore.
She moves into the middle of the sidewalk, ignoring the way it burns painfully in her chest.
The apartment is dark and empty; Korra lets herself in and finds her way through the kitchen without bothering to turn on the lamps. There’s nothing to fill these four walls but sorrow and grey-toned memories, and they don’t need light to show. It’s all echoes and shadows, things once golden now turning silver.
Korra collapses into a bed too big for one person, and falls asleep with both windows open. The orange glow of the streetlights pours through the window like lava, pooling onto the floor; it glints off the chain hanging around her neck, turning it the color of fire.
(Korra first meets her when they collide outside of a coffee shop, both of them spilling their coffee, Korra falling to the ground with half a chai latte splashed across her shirt.
“Oh my god,” she says, brushing at herself and vaguely wondering if there’s any hope of getting the stains out. “I’m so sorry.”
The person she just ran into looks down at her, and Korra forgets how to speak, because this girl is absolutely beautiful .
She’s got long black hair, falling loosely around her shoulders in perfect waves, and her lips are painted a dark maroon. Her eyes are bright green, and when Korra looks up and makes eye contact with her, it’s like lightning strikes the space between them; light flashing, sparks flying, every part of Korra blazing to life like a dropped match.
And there’s something familiar about her too, something about the curve of her mouth and the set of her jaw that makes Korra think they’ve met before.
“Why are you sorry?” the girl asks, her voice low and melodic. “You’re the one who’s covered in coffee. If anything, I should be the one apologizing.”
She holds out a hand and pulls Korra to her feet. The touch simmers through Korra, spreads heat to every inch of her body from where their fingertips meet.
“No, but,” Korra says, finally finding her voice again. “Your coffee. It’s ruined now. Sorry.”
“It is, isn’t it,” the girl muses. “I guess we’ll just have to buy some more.” She opens the door of the coffee shop to let Korra walk in first, and Korra catches the smile at the edge of her mouth as they get in line. Korra tries to let the girl go in front of her, but they end up standing next to each other, a perfect parallel.
“I’m Korra, by the way,” she says.
“Asami,” the girl says, and the bright flash of her green eyes feels like the beginning of something.
They order their coffees and sit by the window. Asami laughs when Korra adds a sugar packet to her cup, and Korra raises an eyebrow. “What?”
“You know that there’s already sugar in there, right?” Asami says, sounding amused. “You’re basically pouring yourself a big cup of diabetes right there.”
Korra scoffs. “I’ll take my chances. At least it will taste good, unlike your black coffee. That stuff tastes like battery acid.”
“Like battery acid, huh? You know that from experience?”
“Well, no,” Korra admits. “But if I had to guess, that’s exactly what it would taste like.”
Asami sips her coffee, steam curling from the top like mist rolling across the bay on a cloudy day. “I actually do know what it tastes like,” she says casually.
Korra’s jaw drops. “You do?”
“My father let me mess around in the workshop when I was a little kid,” Asami shrugs. “It didn’t always end well. Then again, I did help him invent an automobile when I was fifteen, so I’d call it a fair trade.”
“Wait,” Korra says, suddenly realizing why Asami looks familiar. “Are you Asami Sato ? Daughter of the CEO of Future Industries?”
Asami’s eyes cloud over for a moment, and Korra’s almost sorry she mentioned it. There’s a slight break in Asami’s composure at the mention of Future Industries, a subtle slouch of her shoulders like there’s a weight resting there.
“Yeah,” Asami says finally. “But I usually don’t go around parading it, or anything. Being the daughter of Hiroshi Sato...it’s got its perks, but it tends to make people treat me differently once they know. It’s pretty lonely sometimes.”
“I won’t treat you differently,” Korra promises. She looks across at Asami, at her emerald green eyes and soft mouth and dark eyelashes, and thinks that she wants to know her better for who she is, not for who her father is. There’s something about Asami that’s guarded, shrouded in mystery, and Korra wants to see past it.
Asami’s eyes flick up to meet hers. “Thank you.”
“So, hey,” Korra says, fingers tapping nervously at the surface of the table. “My friends and I were planning to do something tomorrow night. It’ll probably just be us going to a shitty bar and then playing arcade games while drunk, but...do you want to come out with us?”
There’s a moment filled with hesitation, a moment of silence hanging between them, and then Asami nods. “That would be nice.” There’s a smile hovering at the corner of her mouth, subtle but beautiful.
Korra can’t help it; a grin spreads across her face like sunlight across the horizon. She’s twenty one years old and she spent last night on her first solo assignment, and now she’s sitting across the table from a pretty girl whose smile makes her feel even more alive than slaying does. It’s all blue skies, all green lights; as Korra looks at Asami, it’s as if the entire universe unfolds before her.
“I’ll see you later, then,” she says.
She leaves the coffee shop with Asami’s number in her phone, veins rushing with pure electricity, feeling like she could dust every vampire in the city.)
“You’re sure they said there was a new leader?”
“Yes,” Korra says impatiently, leaning back until her head hits the wall. Mako shoots her a look, but doesn’t say anything.
Lin shuffles around the papers on her desk, her expression an impassable mask. “We would know if there was a new leader. We have constant eyes on the coven.”
“Maybe your eyes aren’t as good as you thought, then,” Korra says. It comes out flatly, falling out of her mouth like something dead.
Lin glowers at her. “Might I remind you that yours are some of those eyes.”
“Like I said,” Korra says. “Maybe I - maybe we aren’t as good as you think.” There’s a bitter taste in her mouth, like she’s swallowing ashes.
Lin exchanges a glance with Mako. “Look, I know it’s been hard for you lately, with Asami and all - ”
“ Don’t ,” Korra snaps. Every muscle in her body clenches like a fist: a warning, a weapon. “Don’t bring her into this.”
There’s no more annoyance in Lin’s eyes. There’s only pity, and that’s somehow worse.
“Look,” Korra says, forcing her anger down, pushing it into the aching spot behind her ribs. “I’m still the best goddamn hunter you’ve got, and we need this info. Put me in the case.”
Lin pauses, then nods reluctantly. She slides a folder across the desk like she’s handing Korra a knife, blade-first.
“The current coven headquarters are stationed at Fait Accompli,” she says, and Korra thinks she hears a trace of misgiving in Lin’s steely voice.
Bolin leans across the desk to look over Korra’s shoulder, spilling bits of Fire Flakes cereal as he does so. “That old goth hotel?”
“Yes,” Lin says dryly. “Believe it or not, it was once quite a reputable establishment before the vamps took over. I stayed there with my girlfriend once.”
“What about me?” Kya says, walking into the office. “Are we talking about me?” She wraps an arm around Lin, and Korra feels something heavy and sharp sink down into her stomach. The casual intimacy isn’t hers, but it reminds her of soft touches and bright green eyes and lazy days spent lying on the sofa together.
There’s a taste of copper in her mouth, and she realizes that she’s bitten through her lip.
“Enough talking,” she says, letting her chair drop to the floor again. “I’m going tonight.”
“Don’t kill unless you have to,” Lin warns her. “Technically, we’re not contracted for this assignment.”
Korra nods sharply, then tucks the folder under her arm and walks out of the office.
“Korra, wait,” Mako says, running after her. Korra doesn’t bother to slow her pace. “You’re not going alone, are you?”
“I’ll be fine.”
Mako’s eyebrows knit together, his golden eyes filling with concern. “I’m worried about you, Korra.”
“Mako, I’m fine .”
Mako shifts uncomfortably, boots scuffing against the worn carpet. Korra looks at the space between them, sees the jagged ends of connections that broke exactly three months ago. There’s a frigid distance here, and she’s surrounded by walls made of pure stone, but she can’t bring herself to lower them.
“Be careful,” Mako says finally.
“And, Korra - ” Mako pauses, runs a hand through his hair. He looks sad, wounded almost, and there’s a tiny surge of guilt rising in Korra’s stomach. “You’re not the only one who’s going through this, you know.”
“I know that,” Korra snaps, anger wrapping around the guilt like a strand of rope, a hangman’s noose. There’s a stream of angry sentences hanging in the back of her throat, but they fall away at Mako’s next words.
“This is hard for you,” he says. “I know that. But you’re not the only one it’s hard for.” There’s a strand of hair hanging across his forehead, uncharacteristically out of place, but he makes no move to fix it. For some reason, it makes Korra feel very small.
“You’re not the only one who lost her,” Mako says, and then he turns and walks away, leaving Korra standing alone in the hallway.
(“ You met a girl ?” Bolin says, incredulously.
“You met a girl and invited her out to arcade night ?” Mako says, even more incredulously. “You didn’t tell her the truth about us, right? Like, you didn’t reveal our secret?”
Korra takes a sip from her drink. “Funnily enough, the subjects of your My Little Pony phase and Bolin’s no-so-secret aspirations to become the next model for the Cabbage Corp fashion campaign didn’t come up.”
Bolin frowns, lets out an indignant “ Rude! ”; Mako just raises an eyebrow. “Korra, you know what I mean.”
“Okay, okay,” Korra says. “No, I didn’t tell her that we routinely spend our nights hunting down bloodsucking demons. Happy?”
Mako’s saying something else, but it fades into nothing as Korra spots Asami walking in. The entire room falls away until it’s just the two of them, Korra motionless and waiting, Asami in motion and closing the distance between them.
“Hey,” Korra breathes out, eyes drawn to Asami’s lips by a force stronger than magnetism. They’re painted a dark red tonight, and Korra thinks of smearing it across her own lips, red washing over her like tides.
“Hi,” Asami says, and there’s a brilliant sparkle in her eyes.
Mako and Bolin introduce themselves, shaking hands with Asami, and there’s a strange tension between Korra’s shoulders when she notices that Mako’s hand lingers in Asami’s for a second too long.
Asami pulls her hand back with just enough force to mean something, and Korra exhales.
Bolin buys them each a handful of tokens, and they make their way around the arcade, going from game to game in a blur of jokes and laughter and gold tokens sliding into slot machines. Korra wins Skee-Ball; Bolin wins Pac-Man; Asami slides behind the wheel at the race car game and destroys every one of her opponents with a clinical skill.
“You’re too good at this,” Bolin says, staring in disgust at the blinking 7th Place! on his screen.
Asami just shrugs. “I’ve had a lot of practice,” she says, and only Korra knows the true depth of that statement.
“I’m glad you came along tonight,” Korra says later, leaning against the claw machine. Mako and Bolin left for the prizes desk, and it’s just the two of them now. Korra can see Bolin talking animatedly, clearly trying to talk the arcade worker into giving him more tickets.
“Me too,” Asami says. “This was nice. It’s been a long time since I’ve done...anything like this, really. A long time since I’ve had anything close to a friend.”
“We’re all your friends now,” Korra assures her. “Assuming you want to be, that is. If Bolin put you off, I won’t blame you.”
Asami laughs, and Korra can’t help it; she reaches forward to wrap her arms around Asami in a quick hug. Asami’s hands rest against her back, and Korra’s face presses forward into her hair for a moment that feels like nothing and everything. Asami smells like jasmine and lavender, a garden of scents, the brightness of flowers. New growth, fresh blossoms.
“I’ve got one token left,” Asami says. “Should we try out the claw machine?”
Korra glances doubtful at the pile of gaudy necklaces and charm bracelets stacked high inside the plexiglass walls of the machine, glittering with the pale luster of fool’s gold. “I don’t know,” she says. “These things are always kind of a ripoff.”
“I’m going for it,” Asami says, sliding the token into the slot and placing her hand on the controls. She maneuvers the claw around the machine, and Korra watches in surprise as she perfectly hooks a cheap silver chain with a flat blue charm hanging from it.
“Here,” Asami says. She pulls the chain from its plastic wrapper, wraps it around Korra’s neck. Korra feels Asami’s fingers trace along the back of her neck as she fastens the clasp, and the sensation runs through her like a waterfall.
“Are you sure?” Korra asks. “You’re the one who won it, don’t you want to keep it?”
“It matches your eyes,” Asami says simply. “Besides, I wanted to win it for you.”
Korra leans into her. “I can’t believe you won something from this stupid machine,” she says. “I kind of thought it was impossible.”
“There’s something you should know about me,” Asami says, happiness etched softly at the corner of her mouth. “I like to defy the impossible.”)
The hotel looms out of the darkness ahead of her, tilting upwards into the night like it wants to block out the entire sky. The streetlights along the crossroad are mostly burnt out, leaking dim orange light onto the uneven asphalt road. Korra makes her way towards the back of the hotel, sticking to the shadows, steps absolutely silent.
She finds the fire escape and starts to climb. The metal bites into her hands with the dry sting of rust, but she doesn’t care. She hardly registers pain these days.
At the top of the fire escape, an open window beckons to her. It’s almost too easy to slide through and drop onto the carpeted hotel hallway, moldy velvet giving way beneath her boots, cracked oil paintings shadowing the walls. It’s like breathing in a ruin, like standing inside a metaphor for death.
Korra closes her eyes, lets the hotel blueprint form in her memory. There’s a grand ballroom where the coven leader’s throne is, and that’s where she needs to be. One hallway across, three stories down, there’s a view from the balcony above.
The hallway. The stairs. There’s one vamp in the stairwell, teeth buried in something red and bloody. Korra dusts him before he even notices her, kicks aside the chunk of meat that drops to the floor. Blood spreads across the sole of her boot.
(There’s so much blood these days; filling her mouth, dripping down her throat, staining her hands. Not enough of it is hers, and too much of it is hers, and Korra can’t change it, can’t do anything but spit it back at the world.)
Korra reaches the balcony and presses herself into the shadows, against the wall. From where she’s standing, the ballroom is spread out beneath her, all dusty marble and wallpaper washed dark by time. There’s a massive crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling, shrouded in cobwebs, not a single candle lit.
There’s a crowd of vampires standing around, but the tall iron throne sitting at the far end of the room is unoccupied. In the dark grey half-light, it’s impossible to see facial features beyond the curve of profiles or the sharpness of fangs. Korra stares down at them. One holy water explosive would take out the entire room, the heart of the city’s coven…
She pushes that thought away, grits her teeth against it. There’s no way she’ll ever use one of those explosives again. It hurts even to think of them, of who invented them.
The massive ballroom doors swing open, spilling sickly orange light across the floor, and Korra thinks vaguely of the gates of hell. A short vampire walks in, their stride long and measured. “Boss isn’t back yet?” they ask, and Korra’s suddenly listening intently.
“No,” one of the vamps answers casually, waving a hand, the movement nothing but a glint of white. “She’s out somewhere.”
“Probably off killing some humans,” another one adds. “She’s ruthless, that one. Kuvira ain’t shit compared to her.”
“Kuvira is dead,” the first vamp deadpans, “so she ain’t shit compared to anyone anymore.”
Korra puts a fingertip to her lips, bites at the skin until it breaks. So the vamps from last night were right; there is a new leader, and she’s apparently much more vicious than the previous one.
Usually, they don’t worry too much about who’s leading the coven. Lin keeps files on the higher-up vampires, but it doesn’t matter too much for contract killings. But if there’s a coven leader who’s too violent, too greedy, too liberal with their attacks on the humans in Republic City, then Korra and the other hunters will have to take them out.
One of the vampires raises her head, tilts it to one side. “Do you hear that?”
“Something…” She frowns, fangs sliding out over her lower lip. “Almost like a heartbeat.”
Another vamp scoffs. “Right, like any bloodbag would walk into our headquarters.”
“I still think I hear something,” the first vamp insists.
Korra shrinks back against the wall, blood rushing in her ears, the tireless thunder of a waterfall. Her heart beats out a staccato rhythm, a rapid two-step. She concentrates her hardest, slows her heartbeat the way Lin taught them years ago.
Life breathes beneath her skin, quiet but not silent.
The doors swing open and a tall vampire walks in, posture perfect, shoulders set confidently. Korra can’t see their face, but their hair falls long around their shoulders and their body curves softly against the darkness, so she hazards a guess that they’re a woman.
“Boss,” one of the vampires murmurs, and there’s a sea of shuffling motion, quick nods of respect rippling through the crowd. The energy changes, subtly but perceptibly; there’s a kind of electricity in the room now, a feeling of charged intensity.
The tall vampire - the boss - just raises a hand in acknowledgement and walks over to the throne, sitting down in a way that walks the line between formal regalness and practiced indifference. There’s a quiet confidence about her, a deadly grace to her movements, and something about it sends every nerve in Korra’s body ringing with a fearful familiarity, hinting at a truth she hasn’t yet uncovered.
“Any news on the south side turf wars?” a voice calls out. “We’re taking that shit over, right?”
“What about those raids on supply trains?” another voice chimes in. “Are we doing that soon?”
The boss raises her head in an unmistakable challenge, and the other vampires fall silent. She looks up, her gaze sweeping around the room; she turns towards the balcony, profile sharp as a knife in the dim orange glow of the outside lights. Her stare falls on the shadows concealing Korra, and suddenly Korra forgets all about stealth and safety and the mission, forgets about everything, because the breath is being ripped out of her lungs and the beat is being kicked out of her heart and everything has changed.
The boss’s eyes are bright green, shining like stars even through the darkened room, blazing like the aurora borealis, something Korra has only ever seen once before in her life.
“ Asami ?” Korra whispers, the sound falling from her lips like spilled water, and every vampire in the room whips around to stare up at the balcony.
Then they’re running towards her, some jumping ten feet upwards to get to her, and she’s reaching for her stake and fighting for her life. She slams a hand into the first vampire’s mouth, fangs grazing her knuckles, hot blood running through her fingers, then stakes another, and another. She’s sloppy, unfocused, missing easy hits, and every thought in her head is shaped like a woman draped in shadow.
It can’t be her, Kora thinks detachedly, kicking a vampire backwards off the balcony. She chances another look over at the throne, sees that the boss is gone. She’s relieved, because it wasn’t Asami anyway. It couldn’t have been, it couldn’t . Asami is -
(Asami is - )
The vampires throng around her, pushing her backwards, fencing her in but not laying a hand on her. She slices through them, staking and staking, and they’re not even trying to hurt her, but she can’t untangle the mystery of that right now. All she can do is wonder if those eyes were the right shade of green.
They can’t be, she thinks, because Asami is -
“ Hey !”
Mako’s voice rings out, echoing in the dusty hallway. It’s simultaneously the best and worst thing Korra has ever heard. She looks over and there he is, next to Bolin, fighting his way through the far end of the sea of vamps.
“What are you doing here?” Korra yells.
“Come on,” Mako says, and then he’s grabbing her hand and dragging her towards the exit, Bolin right on their heels. They fall down the fire escape in a mess of tangled limbs and stinging scrapes, and every unanswered question that Korra has is left behind somewhere in the hotel.
They make it four blocks from the hotel before Korra’s anger explodes.
“What the hell were you doing? Following me?”
Mako’s eyebrows shoot upwards. “Are you seriously angry right now?”
“I was handling it,” Korra insists. She doesn’t know why she’s angry, only that she is. There’s too much noise between her ears, too much tension in her body, and she feels like she’s drowning. “This wasn’t your fucking assignment.”
“There were too many of them!” Mako says, voice raising to a half-yell, arms waving wildly. “You were walking into the heart of the coven alone, obviously we weren’t going to let you go completely solo…”
Bolin steps between them, eyes darting nervously from one to the other. “Okay, let’s take a breath, huh?”
“That’s not your decision to make,” she shouts back at Mako, the words blowing through Bolin like he’s not even there. She stops short at the corner, leaning against the streetlamp, frustration boiling over like scalding water. “I’m the best hunter in the city, you know I could have taken them…”
“But you weren’t,” Mako snaps. “You were missing your shots. I haven’t seen you fight that messily since we were eighteen. You weren’t focused at all.”
“Yeah?” Korra growls, fists clenching at her sides. “Well, maybe that’s because Asami was there.”
Mako and Bolin stop dead, their faces identical masks of shock and confusion.
“What?” Bolin says, his voice quiet.
“She was there,” Korra repeats. All the anger bleeds out of her, melting away until there’s nothing left but exhaustion. Standing upright is suddenly an overwhelming challenge. “She was there .”
“That’s impossible,” Mako says.
Korra doesn’t answer. She just pulls at the silver chain around her neck and thinks of defiance.
(“I can’t believe we’re really here,” Korra says to Mako and Bolin, looking in awe at the towering golden structure of the Sato mansion. The steps are pure marble, and when Mako rings the doorbell, it’s made of solid gold.
The door swings open to reveal a short man in a fitted black suit, who bows deferentially to them. “Miss Sato’s friends, I presume?”
“Yes,” Korra says, stepping forward and clearing her throat. She tries for a refined accent, but sounds more like a country singer. “The friends of Miss Sato. That’s us.”
“Right this way,” the butler says, leading them into the house. As they walk, Korra can’t help but stare.
The ceiling arches high overhead, painted in pale gold and silver; oil paintings line the walls, small ivory tables rest against the walls. It’s like walking through a museum, and it’s the kind of splendor that the South Pole could only dream of. Korra almost doesn’t know where to look.
The butler pulls open a glass door, bows to let them go into the room first. As they walk forward, they’re hit with a wave of warm air. Korra takes in the glass-roofed room, the pale blue pool in front of them, and then she catches sight of Asami and forgets about every other beautiful thing in this house, because nothing she’s seen so far holds a candle in comparison.
Asami is sitting at the side of the pool, legs hanging over the edge to trail in the water. She’s wearing a bright red bathing suit that makes her look like fire itself, and Korra wants to let herself get burned.
“Hi,” Asami says, waving to them. Mako mumbles a quick hello, the word mostly lost as he looks down in embarrassment. Korra notices the way he rubs the back of his neck, the dull flush creeping up his face, and knows that she’s not the only one enchanted by the sight of Asami.
“Hey,” Korra manages, trying not to stare longingly, but she knows it’s a hopeless cause. Asami smiles at her, soft but not gentle, the curve of her mouth like a half-finished sentence. It lights Korra up from the inside, a leadlight burning in her chest.
Bolin lets out a whoop and tosses his shirt aside, jumping into the pool. The water explodes around him, splashing everywhere, and the moment is broken.
Mako charges in after him, dunking him under. Korra makes her way around the edge of the pool until she’s standing next to Asami.
“You’ve got a really nice place here,” she says. “It’s so…”
“Extra?” Asami guesses. “My dad is big on luxury decor.”
“I get that impression, yeah,” Korra laughs. “It’s nice, though. I mean, it’s amazing .”
Asami shrugs one shoulder slightly. “It gets kind of annoying sometimes, you know? Like, sometimes I just wonder if it would be so terrible to have a slightly simpler life.”
It sounds like such a rich girl problem that Korra almost scoffs, but she holds back. There’s something in Asami’s eyes that’s distant, clouded. It hints at a sadness that Korra doesn’t understand, and so she tries to lighten the air between them.
“Want to get in?” she asks, nudging Asami. “I’ll show you my famous reverse dive.”
“Showoff,” Bolin calls from the other side of the pool, splashing a small wave towards them. “Come on, get in.”
Asami gets to her feet, flashing Korra a quick grin, and grabs her hand. With one quick yank, they’re both falling into the pool.
“You’re such an ass,” Korra sputters once she resurfaces, shaking water out of her eyes.
“Oh, but you love it,” Asami says, and Korra refuses to admit just how right she is.
They float in the water for a long time, talking quietly, laughing at Mako’s floundering attempts at a backstroke, watching as Bolin tricks the butler into drying him off five times in a row only to jump back in the water right afterwards. Eventually, Korra gets restless and starts swimming laps.
“You’re really good,” Asami says, as Korra stops for a breather after her tenth lap. She rests a hand on the tile at the side of the pool, tips her head to look at Asami properly.
“Ten years of competitive swim before I moved to Republic City,” Korra explains. “I’m doomed to have chlorine-damaged hair for the rest of my life.”
Asami stretches out her fingers and runs them through Korra’s hair, the touch light and warm. Korra can only breathe.
“Seems fine to me,” Asami says, amusement hovering at the edges of her mouth like she knows exactly how this affects Korra. “But really, you’re amazing in the water. You could be on an Olympic team.”
“She was, actually,” Bolin calls over helpfully. “Then she quit because, um…” He frowns, trails off, and Korra goes momentarily tense at the unspoken admission hovering in the humid air.
Mako shoves him underwater. “Because she hated waking up early for morning practices,” he says smoothly, picking up the loose end. He shoots Bolin a glare.
Asami’s eyes widen. “You were an Olympian?”
“Junior Olympics only,” Korra says easily, the stress melting from her shoulders, “and really, I’m not a big deal. I just like to go fast, and swimming lets me do that.”
“You like to go fast, huh,” Asami muses. She pushes one hand across the surface of the water, gives Korra a slow glance of consideration that slides across Korra’s body and simmers against her skin. Korra blushes, but doesn’t look away.
After a moment, Asami lifts herself out of the pool and reaches for a towel. “Have you ever driven a satomobile?”
The racetrack is long and winding, looping in a closed circuit for two miles across the mansion’s back lawn. There are two cars racing on the far side, speeding along like they’ve been shot from a cannon. Asami catches the look of excitement on Korra’s face and brings her to the side of the track, where there’s a third car sitting idle.
“This is our newest model,” she explains, stepping into the driver’s seat. “It’s not available to the public yet because my father is trying to cut a deal with the coven, but since you’re with me…”
Korra slides into the passenger’s seat, waving to Mako and Bolin as they settle down on the grandstand behind the finish line. “Your dad does business with the coven?”
“Sometimes,” Asami admits. “I’m not a big fan of the vampires, but my dad seems to think that it’s better to stay on friendly terms with them.”
Korra bites at her thumbnail, thinking of all the vampires she’s killed. She wonders what Asami would think if she knew. Vampire hunters aren’t very well regarded in Republic City; even though they’re keeping the human population safe, they’re generally considered to be little more than street rats. They’re the roughest edges of the city, the sharpest yet dirtiest blades, tainted by mere association. It doesn’t bother Korra usually, but now she looks at Asami, leaning lazily against the leather driver’s seat, and hopes she doesn’t share the same view as the public.
She probably won’t, Korra reasons, because Asami is nothing if not unique.
Asami revs the engine, the roar of metal rattling through Korra’s bones. “Ready?” she yells over the noise.
Korra nods, and Asami floors it.
The car rockets down the track, the wind whipping against Korra’s face, kicking color into her cheeks, Her eyes water, but every cell in her body blazes with adrenaline. It’s like flying, like slaying, like living.
Asami twists the steering wheel, throws them into a sideways drift. The car tips at a perilous angle before landing on all four wheels again, the smell of scorched rubber filling the air as they take off again.
“This is awesome,” Korra shouts, and Asami flashes her a bright smile. It makes Korra’s heart race faster than the car.
They circle the track twice, and when Korra finally stumbles out of the passenger seat, she grabs Asami in a hug without even thinking about it.
“That was so cool,” she shouts. “Holy shit.”
“I’m glad you liked it,” Asami says. “Sometimes I worry that I’m too much, or too intense, or too...something. Plenty of people have told me that over the years, and I don’t care - it comes with the territory, given who my dad is - but it’s different with you.”
“Asami,” Korra says, resting a hand on her shoulder. “You are intense, and it’s awesome, because I am too.”
“Yeah,” Asami says, smiling now. “We really fit together, huh?”
“We do,” Korra agrees, thinking of wishbones and puzzle pieces. Asami’s still smiling, shy and open, and Korra’s heart swells at the way she’s letting her in. They’re standing at the edge of Asami’s world; Asami opens the door, and Korra steps across the threshold without hesitation.
Mako and Bolin wave to them, beckoning them back. As Korra and Asami walk over, their hands brush lightly, and Korra doesn’t pull away.
Asami doesn’t, either.)
Korra is a mess for the next four days, and she’s a nervous wreck on patrol. She whips around every time she sees a flash of green or hears footsteps in the shadows, or every time she wishes she does.
She doesn’t sleep at night; there’s a restlessness aching inside her bones that won’t let her relax. She paces her apartment instead, wearing tracks into the carpet, carving traces of her worries right into the wooden floor. At night, she sits at the open window and stares out at the city lights until they blur into a rainbow of melancholy, stinging her eyes.
There are so many streets and so many lights, and she knows Asami is out there somewhere. (Knows Asami can’t be out there anywhere, because Asami is -
Asami is - )
Mako and Bolin come to check on her during the evenings, walking home with her after patrol despite her protests. Bolin makes tea and ramen noodles, and Mako sits silently at the kitchen counter, watching as Korra taps an anxious pattern into the surface of the table. They don’t speak much, because Korra clearly isn’t listening to anything they say anyway.
On the fifth day, Lin sidelines her.
“Korra,” she says. Her voice is worn at the edges, and there’s a hint of reluctant impatience behind it. “You need to take some time. This isn’t right, and it isn’t healthy.”
Korra freezes where she’s standing in the doorway of Lin’s office, hands clutching nervously at the edges of the mission report. She’s gone over it again and again, tried to make sense of green eyes in the darkness and harmless vampires until her brain hurts, and still Lin’s red pen slashes across it in broad strokes of crushing reality.
“What?” Korra says, too loudly.
Lin lets out a loud sigh, shuffles around the papers on her desk. She doesn’t meet Korra’s eyes. “I know you think you saw Asami - ”
“I did ,” Korra insists. “It had to have been her. There’s no one else in the city with eyes that shade of green, no one else in the Earth Kingdom…” No one else in the world.
(But Asami is - )
Lin stands, walks around her desk until she’s in front of Korra. She reaches out and rests a hand on Korra’s shoulder, and the touch is so unexpected that Korra forgets to flinch away.
“It’s only been three months,” Lin says. “You need time to heal. You’re not over it yet - no one in your place would be, and it’s perfectly okay. But if you’re seeing things...”
“I’m not,” Korra says defensively.
“You know what happened,” Lin says, her voice gentle, and it hurts worse than a slap to the face. “You were there. You saw the wreckage and the ruins and the mission report. You helped write it.”
Korra blinks hard, yellow tape and flashing lights and red deceased stamps filling her vision. It’s all tainted by the hazy film of memory, and the pain is more of a dull ache than anything else.
“I’m not - ” she starts to say, and then stops, because she’s perilously close to crying.
Lin tugs the report from Korra’s unrelenting hands. “You’re off patrols and contracts for the time being. Just focus on yourself, okay? Get back on your feet, take some time to process and grieve.”
“You’re benching me,” Korra says disbelievingly. “I’m the best hunter in the city, and you’re benching me.”
“It’s temporary,” Lin says.
“I don’t believe this,” Korra spits. “You’re making a mistake. I’m right, and you’ll see it.”
Lin’s mouth is half-open around what’s sure to be condescending comfort, and Korra doesn’t wait to hear it. She wrenches out of Lin’s grip and heads for the stairs, taking them two at a time, jumping to the ground floor so hard that the impact rattles through her like an electric shock.
She doesn’t close the door when she leaves, and she doesn’t look back, either.
Korra is lying on her sofa staring aimlessly into space when Mako walks into the apartment later that night. He lets himself in by the front door, and Korra watches as he takes in the boots thrown across the hallway, the food spilled across the counter, the photographs strewn across the sofa by Korra’s head.
He doesn’t say anything; he just steps across the mess to start boiling water for tea, and Korra is reminded of why he’s one of her best friends.
The teapot whistles a few minutes later, and Mako pours a mug full. He brings it over to her, then pours another for himself and sits at the counter. Korra cups her mug in both hands, stares into the steam without drinking.
“Lin told me what happened,” Mako says at last, his words measured.
Korra shrugs one shoulder.
“She’s worried about you. She’s just doing what she thinks is best.”
“Is this what’s best?” Korra says, her tone bitter. “Asami is out there somewhere, and Lin thinks the solution is to stop me from going on patrols? What if she needs help? What if - ”
Mako blows on the surface of his tea, staring at Korra. The deep sadness in his golden eyes washes over her in a wave of grief, and it’s like looking into a mirror.
“Korra,” Mako says quietly. “Asami is dead.”
“I know,” Korra says, but she doesn’t, not really, and anyways, there’s a difference between knowing and accepting. Korra refuses to let Asami's death sink in; she pushes it to the surface again and again, clings to denial like a life preserver thrown to someone who’s already drowned. She’s always seen in black and white, but now there’s nothing but shades of green clouding her sight.
Mako just nods, and Korra forgets that she’s angry with him. There’s so much anger in her these days, so much rage against the universe and the fates and whatever gods may exist, and she doesn’t see the point in misdirecting it at him. They sit in silence, holding tea that neither of them drink, and Korra takes the smallest bit of solace in knowing that Mako is one of the few people who even slightly understands what she’s feeling right now.
(There’s a corner booth at Fan’s Dumplings, underneath a painting of a turtleduck pond, that’s half-hidden from the rest of the restaurant by a tall jade fern plant. Asami and Bolin point it out the first Friday night that the four of them go to dinner together - Asami is drawn to it because of the privacy, Bolin because of the turtleducks - and it quickly becomes their spot.
“Alright, alright,” Korra says, leaning back in her seat. She and Asami sit on the left side of the table, Mako and Bolin on the right, falling into place with the ease of familiarity. “Appetizers?”
“You order them,” Bolin says immediately. “That waiter from last week still has a grudge against me, I just know it.”
“Because you tried to take off your shirt in protest when he wouldn’t give us free refills,” Mako deadpans. “This is a family restaurant.”
As Bolin starts throwing crumpled-up pieces of straw wrapper at Mako, Asami slides a menu over to Korra. She leans in until their foreheads touch, heads tipped towards each other; a solar eclipse, the overlap on a Venn diagram.
Korra inhales slowly: jasmine, lavender, vanilla. Asami fits perfectly in her space, like they were forged in the same fire. Like they were made to coexist. It’s enough to make her head spin.
“I’ve never been here before,” Asami says, trailing her fingers over the lettering at the top of the menu. “What’s good?”
“The seaweed noodles are my favorite,” Korra answers. “The fire flakes are great, too. And the spring vegetable dumplings.”
“Fire flakes sound good,” Asami says. “I like spicy foods.” The corner of her mouth twitches, and Korra files that information away without really thinking about why. “I think I’m going to get those and the noodles. I don’t usually like seaweed noodles, but if you think they’re good…”
“Oh, so you trust me,” Korra grins, pushing her shoulder gently against Asami’s.
“That, and if they’re bad, I can blame you.”
“That’s low, Asami,” Korra laughs. “I’ll remember this.”
“Really, though,” Asami says. She looks content, at peace, a golden glow of happiness spilling forth from her. Korra looks at her and thinks of the lanterns in the street; warm, comforting, leading the way home. “I trust you.”
There’s something comfortably welcoming in the touch of Asami’s hand against her own, and Korra lets it lift her up, carry her away. Wherever the destination is, she knows she’ll like the journey.
“It goes both ways, then,” Korra says, and tries to ignore the small ache in her stomach that stretches itself out, reaches for the truth. She doesn’t know yet, a voice whispers. She doesn’t know, and how would she react if you did?
Asami slides her fingers over Korra’s, lightly, and it’s only then that Korra realizes her fingers are shaking.
“Are you okay?” Asami asks. From the other side of the table, Mako and Bolin glance at her questioningly.
Asami’s fingers brush over the back of Korra’s hand, and Korra wonders what she’d think if she knew the scars there were from stakes and fangs and vicious punches.
“I’m good,” Korra says lightly, letting her hand linger under Asami’s. She doesn’t want to let this night be tainted by doubts. She’s got her two best friends with her, and Asami sitting next to her, and the shape of their bodies in this corner booth is something that feels like it will become permanent. The truth is too small a thing to come between the foundations being built tonight.
“Alright,” Asami says, but she doesn’t pull her hand away. There’s a smile at the corner of her mouth, and Korra catches it as she turns away slightly.
The guilt pushes at her ribs, subtle but present.
“I want to tell her,” Korra says to Mako and Bolin, the instant they’ve waved goodbye to Asami. She left on the back of a satoscooter, in a trail of exhaust smoke; now the three of them are sitting on the curb outside the restaurant, breathing in the last traces of the night they’d shared.
“We can’t,” Mako says, frowning. “Lin wouldn’t like that. The less people who know, the better, right?”
“Yeah, she said that,” Bolin argues, “but it’s just Asami. She wouldn’t care.”
Korra nods, thankful for his agreement. “Exactly. She’s the best friend I’ve made since...since you guys, actually. And I don’t want to mess anything up by hiding the truth from her.”
Mako heaves out a sigh. “What if she’s one of those people who hates hunters?”
“She won’t be,” Korra says. “Her dad deals with vamps. She knows about them, so she must know about us. Hunters, I mean.”
“Her dad deals with vamps ?”
“That’s what she told me.” Korra shrugs. “Whatever. Republic City isn’t the most vampire-friendly city, but it’s not like we’re basically at war with them. This isn’t Ba Sing Se.”
“I mean, they’re not that bad over there,” Bolin says. “But yeah. Definitely worse than us. We’re practically best friends with vamps by comparison.”
“Okay, so we’re not in an all out vamp-human war here,” Mako says. “But still, Asami’s dad deals with them, and you think it’s a good idea to tell her that we’re hunters?”
“She’s not the same person as her father,” Korra reminds him. Her voice drops slightly. “You should understand that.”
Mako looks away; Bolin looks down. Silence drapes itself over them, settling in the cracks.
“We’ll ask Lin,” Mako decides. “If she okays it, then we’ll tell Asami.”
It’s not much of a compromise, but Korra agrees to it. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she promises herself that she’ll tell Asami someday, no matter what Lin says.)
Lin still doesn’t want her on patrols, so Korra finds herself wandering the streets alone.
She still keeps stakes and seraph blades in her belt - as a hunter, she’s not stupid enough to go weaponless - but when she walks, it’s with no one but herself to watch her back. Mako and Bolin are off on patrol, checking the border between the human and vampire sides of the city. Korra doesn’t begrudge them for this, but there’s a small ache of resentful anger that lives behind her heart, and she can’t shake it no matter what she does.
She walks through almost-empty streets in the hours between midnight and dawn, when there’s almost no traffic. The less cars she sees, the less it hurts. Every car on the road just reminds her of racetracks and abandoned parking lots and steady hands on a steering wheel.
She steers clear of the hotel, steers clear of vampires in general. She’s starting to lose her grip on her recollection of the night she saw Asami, and can’t sort out what’s true and what’s in her head.
It’s not until she’s walking near the bay one night that she makes a conscious decision for the first time in days: she decides to visit the scene of the accident for the first time since that night.
There’s no reason to - there’s nothing there for her but painful memories - but something calls her to it, draws her in. She makes her way through the back alleys and shadowed streets until she’s standing in front of a burnt-out storefront, the front wall scorched, the roof long gone.
Korra takes a deep breath, lets it out. The panic pushes against the insides of her lungs, but she swallows it down and steps over the ash-covered threshold.
Her boots send up a cloud of charcoal dust, grey particles of ruin rising into the air around her. Korra coughs quietly, waves a hand to clear the air. A bitter taste settles on the back of her tongue, like copper dust, like fear and blood and failure.
She takes another deep breath and moves further into the building.
Three walls are still standing, but everything else has been destroyed. The roof is completely gone, and Korra tips her head up to look at the night sky, framed by jagged edges of wood. There are piles of shattered boards and metal scraps strewn around the area. The yard of a junk collector. The workplace of an unsuccessful inventor.
It sends a pang through Korra. Asami was a successful inventor.
(But Asami is - )
There’s a few lines of yellow caution tape staked around the perimeter, flapping mournfully in the slight breeze blowing off the water. Korra ignores them. She crouches down, runs her hands through the dust, wonders if there’s anything left of her here.
Lin hadn’t wanted her to come back here at all. It would be re-opening the wound, she’d said, and Korra had agreed because she hadn’t known how to explain that the wound was already open, and would never heal again. Didn’t know how to explain that she felt like an open wound, every part of her body bleeding out, ripped to shreds and crawling across salted fields in search of a salvation that will never come.
Korra bites at her lip, tastes the copper spill of blood against her tongue. There’s a spot on the inside of her inner lip that’s been ripped open from her biting it when she’s stressed or angry or trying too hard not to remember; it’s just another wound that won’t heal. She looks around at the empty walls again, at the wreck of a building, and suddenly feels defeated.
There’s nothing here for her.
There hadn’t been any survivors. The vampires had been vaporized, or burned up in the explosion. And Asami -
Nothing left, the firefighter had said, emerging from the burning wreck with a grim look on his face. Some seared organic matter, definitely the body, but it’s burned beyond recovery or recognition.
Alright, Lin had said, her face grim and ancient beyond her years, and Korra had screamed until her throat was raw, until her mouth filled with blood, until Mako and Bolin had taken her arms and led her away from the scene, all of them shivering and collapsing into a column of grief until it wasn’t certain who was supporting who.
Korra drags her hands through the dirt, digging deeper now. She wonders if there’s any holy water left in this ground, if it can wash her clean of the grief and guilt that lies on her shoulders like a second skin.
Korra hadn’t cried that night. Hadn’t cried at the funeral. Hadn’t cried any of those cold and sleepless nights. Hadn’t cried with Mako and Bolin, hadn’t cried when Asami’s name disappeared from the patrol schedule, hadn’t cried at the ceremony where Raiko presented her, the closest living friend, with a medal of valor. But now, sitting in the remains of a building that was never meant to hold death within its walls, Korra buries her hands in the ash and the dirt and lets her tears fall, because Asami is -
Asami is dead.
Korra goes home to her empty apartment, and she falls asleep with her boots still on. When she wakes the next morning, she’s cold and hungry and tired, but she feels settled for the first time since Asami’s death.
There’s still pressure between her ribs, still grief weighing in her heart, still loss aching in her bones. There’s still pain, but for the first time in two months, that’s not all there is. For the first time in eight weeks, there’s a tiny bit of light in the darkness. There’s a lifting of the fog, the kind that only comes from acceptance.
Korra glances at the photos stuck to the wall by her bed. Asami smiles back at her, frozen in faded frames of color, and Korra almost manages to smile back.
She doesn’t know if this is moving on, but it feels a little like letting go.
There’s a knock at the door, and Korra moves to the front hall to answer it. It’s surely Mako and Bolin, here with fire flakes cereal and breakfast noodles, ready to share breakfast with her. She pulls the door open, ready to welcome them in, and suddenly stops dead.
Hiroshi Sato is standing in the hallway, dressed in an immaculate grey suit, holding a leather briefcase in one hand. Korra hasn’t seen him since the funeral, a month ago, when he stood on the other side of the cemetery, head bowed, never once looking in the direction of where she stood with Mako and Bolin. Before that, she’d only ever seen him in passing, when Asami would invite her over to the mansion to see the workshop. That had been before she’d moved out.
Before she’d moved in with Korra.
Hiroshi looks like he’s aged twenty years in two months. His eyes are tired and heavy with sadness, and for a fleeting moment, Korra almost feels sorry for him. She knows exactly what it’s like to lose Asami.
“Mr Sato,” she says, inclining her head slightly. A strong wave of dislike crests inside her, but she pushes it down. Once, it felt justified; in the wake of Asami’s death, it just feels petty. “What brings you here?”
Hiroshi remains quiet for a long moment, long enough for the silence to sound ominous. Korra’s grip tightens around the doorknob, cold metal digging into her palm like it’s seeking the truth. She feels like she’s standing at the crossroads, waiting for lightning to strike.
“You’re a hunter,” Hiroshi says at last. A statement, not a question.
Korra lowers her head. “Yes.”
Hiroshi nods, the motion jerky and disjointed. He fiddles with the handle of his briefcase for a minute, his mouth opening and closing like words are reluctant to leave his mouth.
“I need you to kill my daughter,” he says at last, and Korra shatters into a million pieces.
She doesn’t know exactly what happens next. She vaguely registers that Hiroshi is giving her a file folder, papers, a few blurry photographs. She agrees to a two-week deadline, her mouth moving independent of her thoughts. She can’t think, can’t focus, can’t feel anything but the corners of the room collapsing around her.
When Hiroshi leaves, Korra sits down on the floor of the kitchen and looks through the photos he left. There are several shots of the hotel doorway, with an indistinct figure present in them.
Maybe it’s not her, Korra thinks with a detached sense of hope. Maybe it’s not her, after all.
She has to laugh at the horrible irony of it all, because she’d been hoping and hoping that Asami wasn’t dead, and now, if she isn’t, Korra will have to be the one to kill her.
Asami was dead, and now she’s undead, and Korra doesn’t know which one is worse. As she sits on the floor, photographs in hand, fingers shaking, it almost feels like she’s the one who’s dying.
(Korra is at her apartment one afternoon, about a week after their dinner with Asami, when the phone rings.
“Turn that down, will you?” she says, waving at Mako and Bolin. With a sulky frown, Bolin reluctantly mutes the volume on the game of Legend of Kyoshi that’s flashing across Korra’s tv screen.
Korra picks up the phone, presses it to her ear with hope rising in her chest. There’s only a few people she can think of who’d be calling her, and two of them are already in the room with her.
“Hey, Korra.” Asami’s voice rings through the phone, beautifully clear and melodic even through the slight hum of static on the line. “Are you busy tonight?”
Korra feels a smile stretching across her face, wide and absolutely unstoppable. “No, why?”
“Do you feel like going out tonight?” Asami asks. “There’s a band playing tonight at Air Temple, and they’re supposed to be really good.”
“Absolutely,” Korra says. She notes the use of you, wonders if it’s singular or plural. She knows which one she wants it to be.“Meet you there at nine?”
“Sounds perfect,” Asami says. There’s a beat of silence between them, filled with an electric kind of tension, and Korra feels like they’re walking a tightrope. Asami exhales audibly, then says, “Better bring Mako and Bolin, too. I know Bolin likes this band, so he’d never forgive me for not bringing him along.”
“Okay,” Korra agrees, and something twists ever so slightly in her chest, a tiny stitch of disappointment. She hangs up and turns to Mako and Bolin, still dueling it out with their controllers. “We’re going out tonight, and I’m taking the shower first.”
The three of them arrive at Air Temple at nine o’clock on the dot, the first time in months that they’ve been on time for anything other than patrols, and join the back of the line that’s weaving along the street. Korra’s wearing tight black jeans and a blue crop top, one that Asami had complimented before. She’s not anxious, exactly, but there’s some kind of tight feeling in her chest that she can only attest to nerves from attending one of the hottest clubs in Republic City.
She and Mako and Bolin are the kind of people who usually get kicked to the curb at places like this.
“Korra,” a voice calls from the doorway. Korra snaps her head up, looking around, and every knot in her body loosens at the sight of Asami, standing by the bouncers and waving them over. She’s wearing a tight red dress that leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination, the fabric hugging her curves like it’s been painted on.
She’s absolutely beautiful, the kind of beauty that people want to frame and hang in museums. It pulls the air right out of Korra’s lungs.
“Hey,” Asami says, smiling at them, once they’ve made their way to the front of the line. It’s an uphill climb through a forest of sharp elbows and sharper complaints - no one is happy at being cut in front of - but it’s all worth it to Korra when she steps over to Asami and gets wrapped into a hug. Then she’s pulling them inside, past the glaring bouncers and into the building.
It’s deafeningly loud, the bass from the speakers shaking the floor like an earthquake. There are strobe lights flashing all around the room, painting a bright kaleidoscope of color onto the walls, and the mirrorball hanging from the ceiling looks like it’s made of solid crystal.
Korra loves it.
“Oh my god,” Bolin yells over the noise, jumping up and down like he’s following the beat of the song. “You didn’t tell me that Avatar’s Love was gonna be playing tonight.”
“That’s why I invited you,” Asami shouts back, but Bolin is already gone, dragging Mako by the wrist and fighting his way through the crowd in an effort to get closer to the stage. It’s just Korra and Asami now, leaning against the wall near the bar, letting the music shake them down to their bones. Asami smiles at her, dark red and dangerous, and every nerve in Korra’s body flares like a frayed electric wire.
“Do you want a drink?” she asks, and Korra nods.
They move to the bar, sliding into seats that become vacant at their approach. Asami leans over the counter to order for both of them, green eyes flashing in the dim light, and Korra feels it in every part of her chest.
“Here,” Asami says, sliding a glass to her. It’s a Fire Nation margarita, strong and spicy sweet, burning down Korra’s throat with a fading brush of heat. Asami tips her head back to drink her own margarita, and Korra tracks the movement, the smooth line of Asami’s neck. Her eyes catch at the neckline of Asami’s dress, the smooth expanse of skin.
Two drinks, three, four; Asami grabs Korra’s hand, leads her to the dance floor. It’s a tossing sea of sounds and bodies, music filling the air in waves, and Asami is an anchor. Korra pulls her close and they throw themselves into the frenzy as the bassline rips into a new song.
Korra pushes up against Asami, head spinning with rock lyrics and liquid courage. Their bodies fit together seamlessly as they thrash to the beat, and Korra slips her hand onto Asami’s back, fingers pressing at her spine, heartbeat pounding in time with the drums, heart longing to lean forward and kiss away the small smudge of lipstick at the corner of Asami’s mouth. Asami smiles at her, curved and red and sharp, a beckoning caution sign of an invitation.
Korra leans forward slightly, pressing her luck and herself to Asami’s front, and she’s two breaths from risking everything for the curve of Asami’s lips when she catches sight of something out of the corner of her eye: a tall man pushing a woman out the side door of the club, his hand too tight on her wrist.
Korra’s senses light up, burning off the alcohol in her veins, kicking her fully awake. It’s the urge to fight, the instinct to protect.
She pulls away from Asami, shouts “I’ll be right back” over the pounding music, makes her way to the side door.
There’s an alleyway outside, smooth black asphalt joined to bricks at a ninety-degree angle. The vampire has the girl pressed against the wall, arms circling her like a cage, head lowering towards her neck.
“Hey,” Korra says loudly, and the vamp looks up, fangs glinting. He smirks widely, arrogance and bloodlust painted across his face.
“Walk away, little girl,” he growls. “This isn’t your fight.”
Korra reaches for a stake before realizing she doesn’t have one, her hand meeting thin air where it would usually close around sharpened wood. She shrugs, shakes her head hard to clear it, throws herself at the vamp barehanded.
They fall back from the wall in a tangle of fists and fangs, Korra kicking him backwards. “Run,” she shouts to the girl, who’s frozen with fear. The girl slowly starts moving towards the door.
Korra gets a hand around the vamp’s throat, forcing his head away from her even as he lands a solid hit to her jaw. She searches desperately for some kind of weapon, finds a splintered stave lying next to the trash cans. Before she can bring it down, the vamp throws her off and jumps on top of her, lunges for her neck.
Korra whips her head to one side, jerks the stave up in the same motion. The vamp dissolves into dust in the wind, raining down around her as she sits up and brushes herself down.
She gets to her feet and turns to see that Asami is standing in the alley behind her, Mako and Bolin just behind her. Asami’s staring, eyes wide and greener than ever, and Korra scrambles for an explanation, words and phrases chasing around her mind without substance, comets without tails.
“You’re a hunter,” Asami says, finding her voice at last.
Korra nods. No point in hiding it any longer.
Asami turns to Mako and Bolin. “Are you hunters too?”
Bolin nods. Mako just smiles, subtle and sheepish.
Asami’s gaze flicks back to Korra, staring her down unrelentlessly. A beat passes, a moment swallowing silence between them, and then Asami speaks again.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Didn’t want you to freak out,” Korra says quietly. “What we do...it’s not for everyone.”.
Asami’s eyes are still on her, steady and piercing. She studies Korra for a minute, then steps towards her.
“How did you kill him?”
In answer, Korra holds up the stave that she’s still carrying. Asami reaches forward, palm out, and Korra places the wood across her lifeline. Asami holds the makeshift weapon uncertainly, her grip capable but unfamiliar.
“Like this?” she asks.
“Here, let me,” Korra says. She reaches out, curls her fingers around Asami’s, adjusts her hold. Asami’s hand is smooth and warm under hers.
Korra shifts Asami’s fingers until her grip is just right, and Asami smiles at her like she sees this for what it is: Korra, silently letting her into the truest part of her world. The door is open, if she wants to enter; there’s an unspoken invitation lingering on the threshold.
Asami holds the stave tightly, without fear, and Korra knows that she’s accepted.
“So you’re hunters,” Asami says. “If that’s all, can we go back inside? The set list isn’t over.”
Bolin leads the way, talking loudly about the song he hopes they play next. Korra tosses the stave into the darkness before following him, but pauses on the doorstep as Asami’s hand brushes against her wrist. Asami’s fingers press against her pulse point, and it’s as good as a spoken word.
“I wouldn’t have,” Asami says. “Judged you, I mean.”
“I know you wouldn’t,” Korra says. “I was just scared.”
“Well, don’t be. I know now, and I’m still here, dumbass.”
Korra smiles at her. “Good. Want to go back in now?”
“Of course,” Asami says. “I’m saving the last dance for you.”)
Korra sinks into a vague malaise, hours and days slipping by without her noticing. She sleeps, she wakes, she paces; she goes through the motions of life with a blank and uncomprehending range of movement, barely remembering the previous days, barely eating. She clutches the photographs that Hiroshi gave her until her fingers cramp, and then she sticks them up on her bedroom wall and stares at them until her eyes ache.
Mako and Bolin come to check on her, Bolin openly fretting while Mako remains silent but worried, and Korra assures them that she’s alright, lying to herself as much as she is to them. It feels like she’s fading into the distance, dwindling to the smallest point on the horizon.
Sometimes she wonders if Hiroshi was ever here at all, or if she’d made the whole thing up in her head.
She can’t process the thought of Asami being alive, being undead, being a vampire. She can’t think of her as anything other than the person she is in Korra’s memories: green eyes gleaming, smile quirked at the corner of her mouth, movements graceful and easy. So alive, and so beautiful in her mortality.
Korra doesn’t search the streets for Asami, doesn't return to the vampire hotel. She’s terrified of what she might find.
Either Hiroshi was mistaken and Asami is really dead, or he was right and she’s undead. Whatever the truth, Korra’s already lost her. She doesn’t know if she can do it again, not if she’s the one who wields the knife.
But she doesn’t have a choice. She’s a hunter, and hunting is her life. She was made for this, made to destroy and protect. This is her purpose, and she can’t abandon it just for Asami. She’s caught between a rock and a hard place, and both have teeth.
Korra waits and watches for a sign that she’s doing the right thing. She calls, and the universe doesn’t pick up. Still she waits.
If Asami is really out there , she decides, she’ll come to me.
She ignores the voice in the back of her head that asks: And what will you do then, Korra?
She’s lying on the couch one night, half awake, half dreaming of a summer afternoon full of sky, when the phone rings. She presses it to her ear, hearing Mako’s voice on the other end.
“There’s a vamp raid downtown, at the convention center,” he says urgently. “Lin’s calling in all units. All hunters.”
“So she’s letting me off the bench?” Korra asks slowly.
There’s a pause, and Mako sighs quietly. “No,” he says. “But I am. We need you, Korra.”
Korra knows what this means for him. Mako is steadfast and loyal, set in his ways. For him to directly countermand one of Lin’s orders, as her unofficial second in command, is unheard of.
It means that this is a real emergency.
“I’ll be right there,” Korra says, and hangs up. She grabs her stakes and blades, laces her boots, and runs out the door.
The street by the convention center is lit with flashing red caution lights, and there's a crowd of people gathered on the sidewalk nearby, pointing and staring and shouting over each other. Mako leads the way, pushing through the crowds, kicking in the door of the convention center. There’s shattered glass on the walkway, shards gleaming like diamonds against the cement.
Inside, it’s chaos. Loud crashing sounds are coming from what sounds like the upstairs level of the building. Lights are flickering, tables are overturned. The front desk has deep slashes marring its mahogany front. A few prone figures lie on the floor; Bolin bends down to check for signs of life.
“They're alive,” he reports, pressing his fingers against pulse points. “But they’ve been bitten.”
Korra crouches to examine the woman lying at her feet. She’s pale, with red bite marks driven into the skin of her neck. Korra grimaces.
Two vampires rush into the room, dressed in cheap suits. They attack Mako immediately, and he kicks one backwards through a plate-glass window while stabbing at the other with his stake.
“I’ve got this lot,” he shouts. “Bolin, get these people out of here and then cover the second level. Korra, you take the ground floor.”
Korra grits her teeth at the order, nods to him. She heads into the hallway, stake gripped tightly in her palms. The lights flicker overhead as she treads silently down the soft indigo carpet, glancing left and right.
She reaches the common room kitchen, sees a vampire there, buries a stake in him before he can even turn around; in, out, and gone in a rush of adrenaline. It feels something like breathing.
“Hey!” comes a shout from behind her. She turns to see a group of vampires running towards her, fangs bared. She throws herself at them, only to find that they’re backing up.
“Not her,” one of them snarls. “Boss said not her.”
Korra clenches her free hand until her fingernails bite into her palm, cutting across her lifeline. Suddenly she’s back in the darkened hotel, fighting a one sided battle.
Not her. Again.
“Who’s your boss?” Korra demands, the words flying out in a frenzy. “Who’s ordering you to stay away from me? What’s happening?”
One of the other vamps glances at the first, sneering. “Boss doesn’t have to know. We could say it was an accident.”
The bunch of vampires shifts, rustles with whispers of indecision. The last shred of patience remaining in Korra snaps like cheap string.
She hurls herself into the crowd, staking left and right. A yell rips loose from her throat as she slays, a horrible, distant scream of “ Tell me!”
Bones snap underneath her fist, flesh gives way to dust beneath her stake. In less than two minutes, she’s cleared the hallway. She crouches, gasping for air, her boots surrounded by a pile of yellow dust. Her voice broke somewhere in the fight, and she feels a trickle of blood dripping down the back of her throat.
There’s a thunder of footsteps somewhere above her, a crash of breaking glass. Heat grenades, probably. A yell rings out, wild and angry: “It’s the hunter brats. Time to go! Move out!”
Mako appears in the hallway, waving one hand at her. “They're making a break for it. Bolin and I have the top level and stairs covered, but can you get the runners?”
Korra nods, straightens from her crouch. She heads for the door, slipping out into the back alley as the night is filled with the sound of an explosion and smoke starts billowing from the upper windows of the building. Flames lick at the edge of the window, swallowing the air.
Vampires are streaming out of a side door, running down different streets. Screams fill the air as human passersby catch sight of them; it’s all fangs and fear, all demons and danger. This city has never been as safe as it pretends to be, and it likes to prove it.
Back alleys. Long shadows. A burning in her lungs, a stitch in her side. She throws a stake, pinning two vamps to the wall, and they dissolve as the wood shatters against the bricks. She catches another with a seraph blade, sanctified steel driving straight through their heart.
She reaches the grey territory of the boundary line, stops to catch her breath. There’s no sound in the alley now, nothing left but the jagged echoes of her breaths.
A movement in the shadows catches her eye, and her hand twitches reflexively. This deep in the darkness, she can’t tell if they're human or vampire.
“Stop,” Korra says harshly. “I’m warning you. One step away from me and you’ll eat this stake.” She kicks at the pavement in front of her, steel-tipped boots striking up sparks. “Come forward. Into the light.”
The person steps forward slowly, still shrouded in nighttime, but Korra catches a quick, glimmering flash of green. Her heart pauses in her chest, holding her captive in the space between beats. It can’t be.
“Step into the light,” she repeats, a sick fear coiling inside her chest. There’s something in her that knows already, something that hints at a hideous truth she doesn’t want to uncover, but she has to know. She has to.
The person takes another step, and it’s only now that Korra can see they’re facing away from her, walking backwards. There’s an unbearable familiarity in the set of their shoulders, the gentle curl of their hair, the lines of their body, and Korra knows. She knows, she knows.
Asami turns around, and Korra’s world blows apart at the edges.
It’s a shattering, a destruction, the collapse of the universe. As Korra watches, the entire galaxy turns green.
Bile rises in Korra’s throat, and her heart cuts itself to ribbons against the blades of her ribs. Asami is a shadow within shadows, paler than Korra remembers her. Taller, leaner, stronger. She carries herself with the feral grace that Korra knows all too well from years of hunting, and Korra can do nothing more than breathe.
They stare at each other for a moment, time splintering in pieces around them; a masterpiece waiting to paint itself, a train waiting to wreck itself. Asami is the one who’s dead, but Korra doesn’t think she’s ever felt this cold in her life.
“Korra,” Asami says quietly, and Korra feels something unraveling inside her, like she’s coming apart at the seams. Beliefs and bones and threads, all breaking under the weight of one simple word.
“Don’t,” she chokes out, one hand pressing instinctively to her chest. “Don’t talk to me. Not like this. Not when you’re...”
Silence, for a moment. Silence and shadows and shaky breaths. It hurts to look at Asami, and it hurts to look away.
“It’s still me,” Asami says at last, her voice bent around a note of desperation, and Korra thinks: no, it’s not .
(A few days after they go clubbing, Asami shows up at Korra’s apartment one morning, eyes bright, hair tied back. She’s carrying a wicker basket draped in a red plaid blanket, and her smile is like the sun on the horizon.
“I thought we could do a picnic,” she says, stepping inside and tactfully ignoring the fact that Korra is only half dressed and has a toothbrush in her mouth. It’s not something Korra can ignore, though; she looks down at her bare legs, only half hidden behind her baggy shirt, and edges behind the kitchen table, out of Asami’s view. “At the park, maybe? It’s the perfect weather.”
“Mmf,” Korra says, forgetting the toothbrush. She takes it out and says, “I mean, yes. That sounds great.”
Asami looks at her, green eyes glinting with amusement. “Maybe get fully dressed first, though.”
Korra quickly throws on the rest of her clothes and puts away the toothbrush, and they start walking to the park. The streets are warm and alive around them, brushed in gold from the rays of the sun, filled with life. Asami’s hand touches Korra’s as they walk, but neither of them pull away. It’s enough to make Korra’s breaths shallow.
“What’s the occasion?” Korra asks once they’re at the park, Asami spreading the blanket out near a low stone bench. “Your half birthday? National picnic day?”
Asami shrugs one shoulder. “I just wanted to spend time with you. Isn’t that enough of an occasion?”
“Oh,” Korra says, feeling her face burn. She hopes that Asami can’t see her blush. “Yeah, that’s...yeah.”
Asami opens the picnic basket, passing Korra two boxes and a pair of chopsticks. “Here, hold this,” she says, and Korra watches in amazement as she unpacks a towering pile of food: rice, noodles, dumplings, spring rolls, strawberry cakes, a loaf of bread and a wedge of soft cheese, and two bottles, one of water and one of lychee juice.
“Do you think it’s enough?” Asami asks, frowning slightly at the food. “I asked the cook to make it up on pretty short notice, so I didn’t want to request too many things, but…”
Korra snorts. “Are you kidding? There’s enough here for a pack of polar bear dogs. This is great, Asami.” She casts a longing glance towards the plate of strawberry cakes, telling herself that dessert should probably wait until after she’s eaten something with actual nutritional value.
Asami catches the glance. “Well, don’t hold yourself back. Go on, eat.” She opens a container of noodles, and that’s all the encouragement Korra needs; she pulls four boxes and the plate of strawberry cakes towards her and dives in.
They eat in companionable silence, passing the bottles of juice and water back and forth. Korra eats twice as much as Asami, then lies down on her back and raises one hand against the sun.
Asami laughs. “Are you okay?”
“Might have eaten a bit too much,” Korra admits. “That food was insanely good.”
Asami takes another sip of water, then lies down next to Korra so that they’re side by side, barely six inches apart. “I’m glad you liked it.”
A flock of geese hawks crosses the sky, bowed in a chevron formation, and Korra squints up at them. “I got attacked by one of those once,” she says, grinning ruefully at the memory.
“There was a nest at the pond, and Bolin dared me to go pet the babies.” Korra sighs. “The mother came after me, tore a hole in my pants and everything. They’re evil.”
Asami laughs quietly, turns her head a little bit towards Korra until they're lying face to face. This close, she can see the faint freckles dotted across the bridge of Asami’s nose, the first hints of summer sun painting like stars across her skin. She pushes down the urge to reach out and connect them into constellations.
“Sorry to hear about that,” Asami says, smirking slightly. “Sounds like a tragic fate.”
“It’s no laughing matter,” Korra replies with mock indignance. “I’ll have you know that I had nightmares about demonic waterfowl for weeks after that.”
They both laugh, and the sound hangs in the space between them. Korra’s eyes trace over Asami’s profile, the rise of her collarbones, the curve of her lips.
“I always liked geese hawks,” Asami says thoughtfully. “Not all of us have a traumatic history with them, you know.”
Korra hits her lightly on the arm. “Rude.”
Asami snickers. “You realize you made a huge mistake telling me that story, right? I’m never letting this go now.” The corner of her mouth curls, blooming into a gentle curve. “But there’s always just something about geese hawks that I always admired. You know how they fly in a V formation and trade places when the leader gets tired? I used to - I don’t know, I used to see them fly overhead and just think to myself, what a perfect system. And also, I wish I could fly. ”
Asami’s smile is small and wistful, and there’s something about it that makes Korra’s chest ache, something that takes her back to the golden summers and lazy daydreams of her childhood. There was a kind of magic surrounding her back then, a feeling that anything was possible, and here in this moment with Asami, Korra feels the exact same way.
“Hey,” she says softly, pushing her shoulder against Asami’s. The attraction sits low in her chest, slowly bleeds into something softer, warmer, burning slow but just as bright. Something’s changing in a way that she can’t quite parse right now, but it doesn’t matter; Asami is next to her, anyway, and that’s all that really matters. “I’m glad you’re my friend.”
“I’m glad you’re mine,” Asami replies, her eyes sparkling like emeralds.
“I thought - ” Korra stops, inhales. “I thought that maybe you wouldn’t be, after you found out that I’m a hunter.”
Asami shakes her head. “You can’t get rid of me that easily.” She places her hand on top of Korra’s, and Korra melts under the touch. “I told you before, Korra. You’ll never lose me.”)
Korra doesn’t know how long she and Asami stand in the alley looking at each other. Seconds, minutes, hours; time blends into the dark waves of Asami’s hair, bends into the curves of her body. Korra can’t turn away, no matter how much she wants to.
There are so many questions pressing up against the inside of her throat, crowding between her lips, but no words escape. She just stares at Asami, wondering how someone so familiar can be such a stranger.
In the end, the only thing she can do is ask the strongest question burning through her chest.
“Why?” Korra asks, the question coming out in a shattered rasp.
Asami doesn’t answer, just glances towards the end of the alley. A group of people walk by on the street, their laughter spilling over into the night. To Korra, it sounds like they’re a world away.
“We can't talk here,” Asami says quietly. “I know somewhere we can go.”
Korra scoffs. “Where? The hotel?”
Asami winces slightly, shakes her head. She turns and walks away, along the border between the two sides of town.
Against her better instincts, Korra follows.
“Here,” Asami says at last, stopping at a black door painted with red trim. She pulls out a small iron key and unlocks it, letting them into a low-ceilinged hallway. It’s a study in red, the walls and carpet colored in rich crimson with black and gold highlights. Asami leads, Korra trailing silently in her wake.
The hall opens into a large room with a mahogany desk pressed against one wall and a queen size canopy bed in the corner. Even in the dim light, Korra can see the opulent splendor that fills the room; gold works its way over the desk drawers, around the bedposts.
She wonders if this is where Asami’s been hiding, if she’s been lying in the palm of luxury while they’ve all been mourning. The thought fills Korra with a simmering wave of anger. She digs the heel of her boot into the silver velvet of the carpet, bites her lip until she tastes blood.
Asami leans against the desk, rests one hand against the edge of her shirt. Her left eyebrow raises slightly, tilting gently upwards, and Korra recognizes that gesture before she can stop herself; it’s Asami’s one and only tell, undetectable to someone who doesn’t know her well, unrecognizable to someone who doesn’t know every inch of her like a map of their homeland. But Korra catches it, and she knows that Asami knows.
“Why?” Korra asks again. “How are you alive - undead, whatever - why are you leading the vampires, why didn’t you tell us you’re alive, why did you leave - ” Her voice wavers on the edge of breaking, and she cuts herself off before she slips off the cliffside completely. “That night. That raid, the explosives. You were dead. They told us you were dead.”
Asami sighs. “I survived,” she says, unnecessarily. “I got dragged out after the fire...I don’t remember much of what happened. I was holding one of the explosives, a vampire bit me as it went off…” Her hand goes to her neck instinctually, and Korra watches her fingers trace the skin in search of a mark that no longer exists.
“Someone rescued me,” she continues. “I don’t know how, or why, or when - she only introduced herself days afterwards, when I was well enough to stay conscious. But I was turned, and I was rescued, and I’m still alive, Korra. I’m still - ”
“You’re not,” Korra spits out. She can’t take this any longer. It’s Asami’s face and Asami’s voice, but it’s not her Asami. “You’re not alive. You’re not her anymore. You’re a vampire, you’re leading the vampires, and I’m - ” I’m supposed to kill you. “Why did you attack the convention center?”
“It wasn’t my idea.”
“Bullshit it wasn’t. You’re their leader.”
“You don’t understand…”
“You’re right,” Korra snaps. “I don’t understand. How could you leave us?” The words drag their way up her throat, sharp and bitter. “How could you side with them ?”
“There was a reason,” Asami murmurs, and Korra shakes her head.
“Don’t tell me there was a reason,” she snarls, her voice rising. “What could possibly be worth all of this?” Her rage finally spills over, drowning her in burning waves, painting red across her vision. “You abandoned us to become head of the vampire coven! You turned your back on everything you knew without a backward glance! I stood at your grave and watched your remains get lowered into the ground and now you want to come back and tell me that you’re a vampire? There’s nothing that can justify this.”
Korra falls silent, and Asami does too. They stand facing each other, drenched in furious silence: one alive, one undead, death hanging suspended between them like a flipped coin. Light and dark and twilight shadows. The symmetry of a balanced universe.
“Korra,” Asami says, and Korra tips the scales.
She throws herself forward in a blindingly quick motion, crossing the room with lightning speed; here, there, steps striking the carpet like lightning bolts. She pins Asami’s wrists down before Asami can even react.
For one moment - one eternal, heartstopping moment - she considers carrying out her mission. Considers wrapping her hand around a stake and plunging it into Asami’s chest, destroying her heart, becoming her ruin.
“Korra,” Asami says again, her eyes wide and unguarded and brilliant green. Korra inhales deeply and kisses her.
It’s not gentle, not graceful. It’s not the kind of kiss that poets write about, all soft and aching and tender. It’s nothing but blood and teeth and fury, Korra’s lips crushing against Asami’s like armies meeting in battle, hands pressing skin hard enough to bruise. Korra bites Asami’s lip until she tastes blood, a hot metallic crimson spilling across her tongue. She’s not sure which of them it belongs to.
She kisses Asami harder, hears Asami’s breath catch in her throat in response. Korra has spent months and months dreaming of this moment, this place here against Asami’s lips, but it’s always been warm and golden and sunlit.
This isn’t the dream; this is the nightmare. It’s not a solution, not a surrender. The white flag turns red as Korra raises it, and it’s wrong, it’s so wrong, but it’s too good to stop.
Somehow they fall back onto the bed, their clothes dropping to the floor as they tear away the layers of fabric and anger and guilt that separate them. Korra works her hand over Asami’s hip and traces the sharp angles of her bones, thinks about graveyards; Asami kisses her again, and it feels like they’re both catching fire. This isn’t what they should be doing. There is no version of this story that ends well.
Asami flips them over, pushes Korra back into the mattress, smiles at her like the villain in a ghost story. Darkness seems to cling to her as Korra looks up at her, like she’s the thing the shadows follow. Like she’s pulled the night inside through her bedroom window.
“Don’t stop,” Korra whispers into the darkness, and they don’t.
It happens in flashes, in fragments of clarity: Asami’s mouth on hers, Korra’s hand between her legs, Asami’s fingers knotted in Korra’s hair and pulling a little too tightly, bruises blooming like flowers across the column of her neck...
There’s nothing gentle about it, and yet Korra feels an aching emotion welling up inside her, something light and soft-edged. She pushes it down, buries her teeth in Asami’s shoulder again, slides one hand across the inside of Asami’s thigh.
More , she says. More .
Asami’s fingers curl inside her, and Korra feels like she’s burning through the center of the universe.
It’s still dark when Korra rolls off the bed and starts dressing again. She pulls her boots from beneath the bed. Asami watches silently, still lying in bed, nothing but a vague shape in the darkness.
Part of Korra wants to climb under the sheets next to her and sleep side by side like little kids. Part of her wants to hold Asami down and drag the truth out of her, find resolutions for every unanswered question still burning in Korra’s mind. Part of her wants to kill Asami here and now, just because she isn’t dead - she should be dead, should be buried, should be anything but this vampire who wears the face of a woman Korra once loved.
Korra doesn’t do any of these things. Instead, she laces up her boots and starts walking for the door.
“Remember what I said that day in the park?” Asami asks quietly, from behind her. “I meant it. I still do.” She pauses, and Korra can hear her breathe in. “You’ll never lose me.”
Something in Korra’s chest clenches like a fist. “I already have,” she says.
She leaves, and she doesn’t look back.
(Things aren’t much different for Korra and Mako and Bolin after Asami finds out that they’re hunters, except that their friendship becomes stronger. There’s no more secrecy, and their bonds become all the stronger for it.
And there’s one more difference: Asami becomes genuinely interested in vampire hunting.
Sometimes when they’re at one of their apartments, the four of them lounging on the couch or sprawled across the floor for a video game tournament or just sitting outside on the balcony, she’ll ask questions about how hunting works. Does any kind of wood stake work? Are any metals effective against them? Are they actually averse to garlic?
(This last question sends Bolin off on one of his stories: Once upon a time, there was a dashing young man named Bolin who fought off five vampires armed with nothing but a bundle of garlic from the farmer’s market…)
Korra will answer her, or Mako or Bolin will, and Asami listens carefully, her eyes alight with interest. Korra can tell that she actually cares, knows that she’s filing all this information away because she’s a genius and a scientist and that’s what she does. It’s sweet and thoughtful, knowing that Asami cares so much about what they do, and also -
Also, it’s really hot.
Korra tries to ignore that part of it, but she can’t. There’s something so undeniably attractive about the way that Asami leans forward, chin resting on her hand and eyebrows arched in concentration, just like she does when she’s creating a master plan to destroy Bolin in a game of pai sho.
Almost every night after patrol, Korra and Mako and Bolin meet up with Asami and recap the night for her. They sit in the corner booth at Fan’s, or on the battered couch in Mako and Bolin’s apartment, and they weave together the night’s story like a tapestry. Bolin tells the largest moments in the brightest colors; Mako adds smaller details in finer stitching; Korra puts it all together in a recognizable pattern as she straightens out Bolin’s wilder claims and adjusts Mako’s descriptions.
Asami listens, asks questions. Sometimes she even takes a napkin and sketches out her interpretation of the battle plan, her drawings small but amazingly detailed.
It takes Korra an embarrassingly long time to realize that Asami really wants to come with them on a hunt.
They’re sitting on the balcony eating ice cream one night, Korra leaning back against Asami, Bolin lying across Korra’s legs and stealing spoonfuls from Mako’s bowl. Mako is staring up at the sky, talking about the way they had to corner six vamps in a back alley with only two stakes left between them. Korra’s head is pressed to Asami’s chest, and so she hears the moment when Asami’s heartbeat speeds up, strong and steady, like it’s running alongside the pace of the story.
“Hey,” Korra says, shifting around until she’s facing Asami. “Asami - hey. Do you want to come on a hunt with us sometime?”
Asami’s eyes light up, shining spring green under the city lights. “Really? You guys would want me?”
“Of course!” Bolin says, rolling over and sticking his spoon into her bowl to grab the last bite of her ice cream. “It gets boring with just Mako and Korra sometimes, cause they can’t keep up with my elite hunting skills - ”
Korra and Mako hit Bolin on the head with their spoons at the same time, making him yelp. “Ow! Hey, I’m just telling the truth.”
“What Bolin is trying to say,” Mako says, “is that we’d like to have you along on a hunt.”
“We’d love to, actually,” Korra adds, quietly enough that only Asami hears it. Asami smiles at her with that subtle, confident quirk at the corner of her mouth, then finds her hand and laces their fingers together for the briefest of moments. Korra’s pretty sure she stops breathing.
“Alright!” Bolin says excitedly. “This is going to be epic.” He looks down at his bowl, then frowns. “Hey, who took the rest of my ice cream?”
“Not me,” Asami, Mako, and Korra all say in perfect unison. Korra glances at Asami, sees her left eyebrow rise slightly, and grins to herself.
Bolin scowls at them suspiciously, then sighs and lies down on his back. Mako smirks at him, then yanks his own bowl of ice cream out of reach as Bolin suddenly lunges for his spoon. “Hey, back off!”
“I know it was you,” Korra whispers, elbowing Asami. “How did you do it? I didn’t even see you move.”
Asami winks at her. “How’d you know?”
“Here,” Korra says. She touches Asami’s forehead gently, taps her fingers against Asami’s left eyebrow. “That’s your tell.”
“It’s a good thing it’s you who caught on and not Bolin,” Asami replies. “I’d never win a pai sho match again.” She slides down until she’s stretched out comfortably, and rests her head in Korra’s lap. “No one’s ever noticed that about me before. How’d you do it?”
“I guess I just know you well,” Korra says, and Asami smiles.)
Korra sits on the floor of Lin’s office with Mako and Bolin, going over the details of the raid the night before. Lin has a diagram of the streets near the convention center pinned to the board behind her desk, red strings and pins crossing it in a tangled web of evidence. Korra stares at the strings, thinking about fate.
“Do we have any idea why this happened?” Lin asks, her expression grim. “This wasn’t like the usual vampire attacks. There was no reason for this. No casualties, even. Just destruction for the sake of being destructive.”
“Normally the vamps don’t come this far into our side of town without a good reason,” Bolin adds, scribbling away in his usual illegible handwriting on the back of his copy of the mission report. “I have no idea what they wanted to gain from this.”
“There’s a new coven leader,” Mako reminds them quietly, and Korra freezes. She clenches a fist involuntarily, nails digging into her palm. “Maybe they want to establish themselves as a threat.”
Korra closes her eyes as the memories flood in. Asami’s hands on her waist, between her legs, burning against her skin…
A whole different kind of threat.
“Maybe,” Lin says, scowling. She rubs at her face, and Korra can see the exhaustion that’s worn itself into the lines there. “Investigate it today, alright? Maybe do some lab work, I don’t know. We need more evidence. If the vampires are going to start launching full scale attacks like this, that’s trouble for us. We need to shut this down quickly.”
Mako nods to her, Bolin salutes, and then the three of them leave Lin to her paperwork and head out to the city streets. It’s cold outside, the air filled with the icy chill of late winter, and Korra pulls the scarf that she’s wearing tighter around her neck. It pulls against the bruises that are still there from last night, and she winces at the reminder.
“What do you guys think?” Bolin asks as they walk. “Should we be worried about this? I don’t think it’s as bad as Lin’s making it out to be, honestly. The convention center being trashed isn’t all bad - at least there won’t be any more opera performances there for a while.”
“I don’t like it,” Mako says, his eyebrows drawing together in thoughtful concern. “The vampires have always been a threat, but they’ve never attacked randomly like this before. It’s always been give and take between us and them, with the civilians on the periphery. But this raid was like a purposeful strike against the civilian population.”
Korra doesn’t say anything, just glances over at Mako and Bolin. They’re walking in perfect step, their faces wearing twin expressions of contemplation; the sight is as familiar to Korra as her own reflection. It’s comforting to know that they’re the same friends she’s had all her life, that neither of them have disappeared and died and come back to life as vampires...
Maybe she could tell them about Asami. Maybe they’d understand. Maybe they’d help Korra carry the weight that’s been suffocating her ever since the hotel, when she saw Asami for the first time after the fire. They hadn’t believed her then, but they might now.
“It’s the new leader,” Mako says at last, nodding to himself. “I’m sure of it. They’re the reason for this outright aggression.” He pushes his hands into his pockets, his posture slightly hunched, and Korra can tell that he’s blaming himself for not doing better last night. It’s one of the things he has in common with her; they judge themselves more harshly than anyone else.
“So what do we do about them?” Bolin says, frowning. “We can’t just attack them head-on. That’s not how it works. There’s still a balance to maintain here. We can’t afford an all-out war.”
“They ruined the balance when they attacked last night,” Mako says, his golden eyes dark with anger. “No, we’re going to find the new leader, and we’re going to kill them.”
Korra’s chest tightens. She can’t let that happen. She’s stuck in a labyrinth of paradoxical truths; she can’t kill Asami, can’t let anyone else kill her, can’t let Asami live, can’t lose her again. There’s a wall in every direction that Korra turns, and there’s no light permeating the darkness. She’s trapped.
What am I supposed to do ? she wants to scream. Somebody tell me. I can’t do this alone anymore. I can't.
She slips beneath the surface of her mind, searching for solutions, but all she can find is Asami. Every version of her lives in Korra’s head, sliding between her thoughts: Asami, smiling in the sunlight; Asami, leaning over a pai sho board; Asami, closing her eyes in rapture as her hands knot in Korra’s hair...
Mako stares at her, a concerned look on his face, and Korra pulls herself back to the moment at hand.
“Are you okay?” Mako asks, his tone gentle and quiet, like he’s talking to a wounded animal.
“Yeah,” Korra says automatically. “Fine.”
“What happened to your neck?” Bolin asks, gesturing towards her, and it’s only then that Korra realizes her scarf has fallen down. She raises a hand to the marks on her neck and lets her thoughts drift backwards in time to last night, to a darkened bedroom and burning touches and the bite of sharp teeth against her skin, to Asami wrapping her fingers against Korra’s wrists and breathing out her name with a prayer-like reverence.
“Got into a fight,” she says, and it doesn’t feel like a lie.
(Korra and Mako and Bolin take it in turns to train Asami for hunting. It’s a little combat, a little strategy, a little rundown of vampire weak points. It’s an intense week of instruction; Korra is especially tough on her, because she wants to be sure that Asami will be safe out there. To her surprise, Asami learns quicker than any of the newbie hunters that have ever joined the coalition. They push Asami hard, but she pushes back harder.
“She’s really good,” Bolin says admiringly one day, watching as Asami effortlessly flips Mako over her shoulder and pins him on the mat that they’re using for combat training.
“Yeah, she is,” Korra says with a little smile. Asami looks up from the mat, shoots Korra a quick smile, then pushes Mako back down as he tries to throw her off.
It all comes down to this: sitting on a rooftop on a clear, crisp Wednesday night, the city laid out below them in a myriad of lights and colors. Their target is the bookie from the vampire casino across the street, a vamp who’d been committing crimes on both sides of Republic City; they’d been hired by a human casino owner to take him out after some kind of fraudulent scandal with the city’s casino currency.
Bolin and Mako sit on the lip of the roof, legs hanging off the edge like they’re sitting on a pier in summer. Bolin’s eyes gleam bright green in the light as he turns to murmur something to Mako.
Asami leans back against the rooftop air conditioning unit, tapping a stake silently against her palm in a slow, methodical pattern. Her eyes are narrowed and she’s staring into the distance, as if the world has converged into a single point on the horizon. She’s quiet and composed, poised and focused, every inch a patient predator.
Korra shifts around, trying to settle herself. She’s never been too good at the waiting part of this - it’s the only weakness she has as a hunter - and there’s an extra layer of restlessness plaguing her tonight, anxiety draping itself over her nerves like a blanket. She knows that she shouldn’t be worried about Asami, but there’s still a lingering trace of concern that refuses to disappear no matter how much Korra tells herself that it’s unnecessary.
(She knows that Asami can take care of herself; it’s just that the thought of anything bad happening to Asami makes Korra’s blood freeze in her veins.)
“Korra,” Asami says softly, resting one hand on Korra’s shoulder. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Korra answers, fingers pulling unconsciously at the edge of her shirt. “Just…”
“You don’t have to be worried about me,” Asami says, smirking a little. “I can handle myself pretty much anywhere.”
“I know,” Korra says. “It’s just - if anything were to happen to you, I don’t think I could handle that.”
Asami tips her head to one side, her dark hair turning almost iridescent as the light from the nearby window plays over it. Korra catalogues the movement, following the curve of Asami’s hair to the long line of her throat.
“I won’t let anything happen to me, then,” Asami says. Her eyes meet Korra’s as she speaks, green blooming against the falling night. There’s something intensely sincere in them that makes Korra’s breaths come easier. This is a moment that’s true, she thinks; this is a promise that won’t break.
There’s a confession pushing itself against the inside of Korra’s throat as she looks at this version of Asami, determined and honest and beautiful in the faded light, but she holds it back. It’s a moment, but it’s not the moment.
“Good,” Korra says instead. She pokes Asami’s side lightly, teasingly, humor reclaiming the distance between them. “I won’t die if you don’t.”
“Well then,” Asami says, “I’ll make sure not to die.”
“Hey,” Bolin whisper-shouts, waving a hand at them. He’s never quite mastered the skill of actual whispering. “Think we’re up.”
Korra and Asami inch over to the edge of the roof, staring down at the entrance to the casino. There’s a group of vampires spilling out the front door, laughing with each other, adjusting the collars of the dark black coats that they’re all wearing. Their mark is standing right in the middle of the crowd, glancing at his watch; he nods to the others around him, then starts walking away down the street. Four others follow him, trailing after him like satellite moons around a planet.
“It’s go time,” Korra says. “We know our positions?”
“Yeah,” Bolin says. “What if the guys around him get involved?”
“Collateral damage,” Korra says dismissively. “Okay. Let’s go.”
They drop from the roof to the street, landing as lightly as autumn leaves falling to the ground. Mako and Bolin head off to the left, working their way down the shadows on the opposite side of the street. Korra and Asami go straight forward, slipping into the alley between the casino and the bar next door.
They pin the vampires in a bricked-off alleyway a block from the casino, cornering them by a sprawl of dumpsters behind a convenience store.
“Hey there, guys,” Korra says cockily, stepping forward with her stake raised. There’s no real reason for small talk, but she usually starts a conversation anyway. She glances back at Asami quickly, sees an amused smile on her lips. Yeah, the small talk is worth it. “How’s your evening going?”
“Hunters,” one of the vampires snarls. “You really don’t wanna start this with us tonight.”
Korra laughs. “Well yeah, actually, we do,” she says, and buries her stake in his chest. He dissolves into a cloud of dust, and the fight is on.
Mako and Bolin charge at the two vampires standing next to their mark, Bolin dusting one and Mako catching the other in a headlock. The third vampire grabs Bolin, throwing him across the alley and into the wall with a sickening crunch.
“Bo?” Korra calls out. “You good?”
“Yeah,” Bolin calls back, his voice sounding muffled but cheery. “All good. Just going to lie here a moment.”
“I don’t have time for this,” one of the vampires spits out, and then he sprints down the street. It takes a moment for Korra to realize that he’s the mark; he’s the one they have to take down tonight if they want to get paid.
“I’ll get him,” Asami says, running after him. Korra follows her, leaving Mako and Bolin to deal with the remaining three vampires.
The night flashes by as they run side by side, matching each other’s steps with unconscious perfection. Korra breathes in deeply, her gaze flicking sideways to Asami, and briefly thinks about how natural it feels to be alongside her, how this is just one more part of her life that Asami fits into like a missing puzzle piece.
That has to mean something, but she pushes the thought aside for later - later, later. It’s always later.
“There he is,” Asami says, pointing to where the vampire is disappearing down another alley. They pick up the pace, Korra’s lungs burning with a pleasant ache.
The alley is empty when they skid to a stop, and Korra whirls around, looking for a trace of the vampire. “Where did he go?”
“I don’t know,” Asami says, her breaths quick and heavy.
There’s a clatter of metal on asphalt as the vampire bursts out from behind a pile of garbage cans, launching himself at Asami’s neck with his fangs bared. Korra feels a cold flash of panic, lunges forward with nothing on her mind but fear as Asami’s hand comes up in a blur of motion.
The vampire explodes into dust in front of them, and Asami lowers her stake, staring down at her hands.
“Asami,” Korra says, tripping over her words a little in her hurry to get them out. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Asami says, almost like a question, and then again, stronger: “Yeah. I think I got him.”
“You did,” Korra says, kicking at the pile of dust on the ground. “Look.”
Asami smiles, wide-eyed and breathless with excitement. A pink flush paints itself across her cheeks, and Korra can feel her heartbeat climb into her throat. There’s adrenaline running through her veins still, adrenaline and joy and something that feels like pure lightning; Asami steps forward, the dim light catching on her silhouette, following her like she’s the brightest thing in any space. Korra reaches a hand out to her, their fingers tangling together in an admission of inevitability, and feels the pulse fluttering in her wrist: alive, alive, alive.
“I love this,” Asami says, and Korra listens carefully to the undercurrent of the sentence; there’s something under the surface, another meaning lying beneath it like a riptide below the waves. It’s not spoken out loud, but maybe it doesn’t have to be.
“So you’ll come hunting with us again?” Korra asks. She already knows the answer, but there’s something thrilling about asking the question anyway.
“Any time,” Asami says. “Every time.”
Korra smiles at her. Asami smiles back the same way, and as they walk out of the alley together, Korra swears she can see the future opening up around them like the sky on a summer afternoon, stretching out into infinity.)
It turns out that the raid on the convention center was just the beginning.
There are more attacks, more skirmishes. Between trying to protect the border and shutting down direct strikes, every hunter on Lin’s roster is kept busy, and Korra is no exception; Lin officially lets her back into hunting without even a lecture about caution and responsibility. Korra can tell that she’s tempted, but it would take more time than either of them have to spare.
This change doesn’t go unnoticed. It’s a shift in the wind, a turn of the tide. The people of Republic City go about their daily business with a grim kind of determination. There’s less foot traffic, less nightlife, less friendly conversation between strangers in line at the market or the bakery. People rarely walk alone anymore, and the streets become empty earlier each night.
It feels like the prelude to war, and it’s taking its toll on them all.
“We need to figure out what - or who - is behind this,” Lin tells them, pacing around at the front of their conference room. She’s gathered all the hunters for a daytime meeting; as Korra looks around the hall, she counts about seventy-five people in total. It used to seem like a lot to her, but now their ranks look pathetically thin, and something worse - worn. Korra catches flashes of injury and exhaustion among the crowd: bandages wrapped around hands, dark circles smudged under eyes. The hunters once looked unstoppable; now they just look tired. It’s always enough until it isn’t.
Lin pulls out her diagram board and starts talking about new defenses along the border, but Korra can’t bring herself to pay attention. She slouches down in her seat, pulling at a fraying thread at the edge of her shirt, and tries not to give in to the twenty-ton weight of guilt that seems to be constantly pressing against her lungs.
She knows exactly who’s behind this, even if she doesn’t know why. The recent attacks have been placed masterfully, strategically, like pieces on a pai sho board. It practically screams Asami’s name; if Korra closes her eyes, she can perfectly imagine Asami bending over a map of the city, eyebrows knit in concentration as she charts out a plan of attack.
She pushes that image away, frowning. She doesn’t want to think about Asami. She doesn’t want to think at all.
“If anyone knows anything,” Lin says, tone weary, eyes haunted, “if anyone has any information whatsoever, don’t hesitate to tell me. We need to move quickly, before the entire city is overrun.”
A fresh wave of guilt sweeps over Korra. The whole of Republic City is in danger, and yet she can’t bring herself to tell Lin about Asami. Ironic, she thinks grimly; before, she was trying to convince Lin that Asami was still alive. Now, she’s trying to conceal the very same thing.
Protect the city. Protect Asami. The twin instincts wrestle inside her, twisting themselves into a vicious knot; unstoppable force, immovable object. Losing the city for Asami would be a pyrrhic victory, a tragedy penned by Korra’s own selfishness. But losing Asami for the city is just as unthinkable.
Korra runs a hand through her hair, knotting her fingers into it and pulling until it starts to hurt. It just adds to the ache between her temples.
Mako taps her on the wrist lightly, the touch wordlessly conveying his concern, and Korra shrugs him off. She can’t deal with him right now, can’t allow herself to fall into the undeserved comfort of his kindness.
“I’m fine,” she mumbles under her breath. The lie catches in her throat, but she forces it out anyway.
Lin turns to the TV that’s mounted on the wall, pressing the button on the front. There’s a brief moment of static, black and white ripples flashing across the screen in lazy circles, and Korra winces at the sight. Asami would have fixed that, back when she was still with them.
“We should be getting an update from President Raiko,” Lin says, staring unwaveringly at the screen as it slowly resolves into the steps of City Hall. Raiko is standing behind a podium, looking almost as tired as Korra feels. It’s the weariness that comes from searching for a nonexistent solution to an impossible problem.
“...living in dangerous times,” Raiko says, his voice made hollow by the transmission. “I know that this is hard on everyone. I assure you that we are doing everything we can to fix this problem. To that end, I have an announcement to make: until the vampires have been restrained and controlled, there will be a mandatory city-wide curfew of 7 o’clock. For the safety of yourself and others, please comply with this regulation. Thank you.” He steps away from the podium, ignoring the sea of reporters that flows forward in waves of questions.
An undercurrent of murmuring fills the room, a sense of unease sweeping through the rows of hunters. The conflict with the vampires has always been subtle, minimized, swept under the carpet of discretion; Raiko’s declaration is a glove thrown in the face of the city’s coven. He’s pulled the war from the shadows, spread it out beneath the sunlight. Here, he’s saying to the citizens, take this. Know this. It’s the fight for our lives.
The streets of Republic City have always been a battlefield, but it’s never so openly acknowledged.
“Damn,” Bolin says, his eyes wide. “ Damn . This shit’s for real now. He’s declared war.”
Lin curses loudly, cutting through the buzz of conversation. “Enough! You heard Raiko. Curfew is happening, and it’ll be partly on us to enforce it. I’m creating four-man cells for each sector of the city.” She rattles off a list of names, and the hunters disperse, pulling stakes from their belts, calling to each other in voices laced with harsh, sharp-edged notes.
“You three can work as you are,” Lin says, pointing to Korra and waving her finger vaguely to indicate Mako and Bolin. She falters for just a moment, and Korra knows what she’s thinking: they used to be four. “You know the drill better than any other hunters. Take Sector 7.”
“Got it,” Bolin says, taking a quick glance at the city map. “We’ll keep it covered.”
“Mako, Bolin, go,” Lin says. “Korra, a word.”
Korra stays where she is, a deer frozen in the glare of oncoming headlights. Every muscle in her body tenses, preparing for a fight. Lin can’t have found out. She can’t have.
“This came in for you.” Lin holds out a small scroll sealed with red wax and stamped with a familiar symbol: a mechanical gear surrounded by two curving wings. The Sato’s private emblem, used only for personal business. Years ago, in another life, Korra had watched Asami use it to seal a letter to her father.
Lin looks at her quizzically, but Korra just shrugs. She takes the scroll, waits until Lin leaves the room to open it. There’s a short message, ten words and a signature printed in an elegant black script.
I am currently an unsatisfied customer. Time is running out. -HS
It’s long past nightfall when Korra makes her way back to Asami’s apartment, stealing through the silent streets like a ghost. She doesn’t know if Asami’s home, doesn’t bother knocking. Instead, she climbs up the fire escape to the second floor, pushing open a window and dropping to the floor inside.
The room is dark, and so is the hallway. Korra finds Asami’s bedroom and turns on a light bedroom, flooding the room with a pale golden glow. She starts opening drawers in the desk, ripping papers out of their folders, digging through stacks of files in search of anything that can help her. There’s no way to put them back neatly, and Korra doesn’t try.
She wants to leave a mess. She wants to leave a trail of destruction, to tear through Asami’s new life like a hurricane. She wants to leave Asami’s room in ruins, the way Asami left her heart.
She’s halfway through the contents of the desk, papers and office supplies falling around her boots like an avalanche, when a prickling heat works its way across the back of her neck. She straightens up, her hand straying to her stake; she already knows what it means.
Korra whips around, pointing the stake straight forward. Straight at Asami’s heart.
“Korra,” Asami says, staring at her. “What are you - ” Her eyes dart to the mess on the floor, then back to Korra’s face, and something in her expression clears. “Tell me what you’re here for, and I’ll give it to you.”
It’s not a plea, not a surrender. It’s a promise, and that’s even worse. There’s a hint of genuine kindness behind it that pulls at the strings of Korra’s heart, yanking her backwards in time to the days when Asami was still hers.
Korra shakes her head, steps forward. She presses the tip of her stake to the spot above Asami’s heart, feeling the weight of Asami’s life in her hands, and Asami doesn’t stop her.
“I’m here to kill you,” Korra says. “Your father sent me.”
Pain flickers in Asami’s eyes for a split second, but she doesn’t move away; she stays right where she is, one breath away from mercy or murder. “Are you going to?”
Korra doesn’t answer right away. The world stops spinning and balances on the edge of the moment, holding its breath in the silence. Asami looks at her fearlessly, and Korra can’t keep pretending anymore. The two roads have diverged, and she’s halfway down the wrong one already.
“No,” Korra says. She drops the stake and reaches for Asami, grabs the front of her shirt, pulls her forward for a kiss. Asami meets her halfway, and there’s something - an aphorism, a wives’ tale, a law older than time itself -
Asami pushes her backwards towards the bed, and Korra lets it happen.
It’s the oldest law in the universe: the higher the climb, the harder the fall.
(“I can’t believe you never learned this,” Asami says, the corner of her mouth quirked upwards in amusement.
Korra rolls her eyes, leaning back in her wickerwork chair. They’re sitting in the solarium at the Sato mansion, sun streaming through the windows onto the pai sho board that’s resting on the table between them.
Asami’s setting up the pieces. Korra’s pretending to watch where she places the tiles, and actually watching the way that Asami’s hair shines beautifully in the light, a golden glow playing over the dark waves like oil on the surface of water.
“Seriously,” Asami says, sliding a white lotus tile into place. “You’ve been friends with Bolin for what, your entire lives practically, right? And he never taught you how to play?”
“No,” Korra laughs. “He tried to, but I just don’t have the patience for it. The one time he started explaining the rules to me, I fell asleep in the middle.”
“Well, I’ll try to explain better than he did.” Asami puts a final tile in the middle of the board, then taps the triangle of red tiles in front of her. “Basically, you just create a chain of harmonies around the center point of the board. Each harmony gets you points. You can capture the other person’s tiles as long as they’re disharmonious from your own, and those go into the pot at the center of the board…”
Korra stares at the board, taking in the intricate carvings on the game pieces and the irregular pattern of the board, and feels her eyes start to glaze over.
“You know what,” she says, reaching for her set of tiles. “Let’s just play. I’ll make it up as I go along.”
Asami raises an eyebrow, but her expression is fond. “You know I’ll destroy you, right?”
Korra studies her for a moment, watching the bright green of her eyes, the gentle curve of her lips, the perfect line of her jaw. She thinks: y es, and I’d let you.
“I’ll take that risk,” Korra says, and she’s pretty sure they’re not just talking about the game anymore.
“Alright, then,” Asami says, smirking at her. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“Oh, I won’t,” Korra assures her. “I asked for this.”
Asami flashes a quick smile at her, their eyes meeting for a second that seems to last forever, and then looks back down at the board. Something falls away between them, slipping through the spaces between the words. There’s a dance here, and they’re still learning the steps; Korra breathes out slowly, lets it drift away for now. She’s sure it’ll come back.
“Okay,” Asami says, pushing one of her jasmine tiles to a red square at the edge of the triangle. “Here goes.”
Korra moves a lotus tile to a white square. “Hey, how about this - if I win, we get dinner at Narook’s tonight like you and Mako wanted to.”
“And if you lose?”
“Then we get dinner at Fan’s instead,” Korra says, grinning. “I know Bolin wants to go there anyway, and you’re the one who said I’m pretty much guaranteed to lose this game, so…”
Asami shakes her head, but she’s still smiling. “You know, it wouldn’t kill you two to switch up the restaurant routine a little bit.”
Korra shrugs. “What can I say? It’s tradition.”
“You’re ridiculous,” Asami sighs. “What does Fan’s have that Narook’s doesn’t?” She pauses for a second, clearly thinking hard. “Oh. It’s that painting of the turtleducks, isn’t it?”
“No!” Korra exclaims. “Okay, maybe a little bit. They’re cute.”
Asami sighs, stretching her legs out under the table. She pushes the heel of her boots against Korra’s, the gesture comfortingly familiar. “Fine, but next Friday…”
“Noodles. Got it.” Korra runs her fingers along the edge of the game board impatiently. “Let’s play.”
“One more thing,” Asami says, pushing a tile forward into a red zone. “This is actually crucial to the game’s tactics, so if you’re going to remember any of the rules, remember this.” She taps one of the special jasmine tiles near the center of the board. “Some tiles are more valuable than others, but you should never sacrifice many to save the one, no matter how important it might seem. That’s what trips Bolin up most of the time - he wants to save his special lotus tiles even if it costs him the rest of his pieces. I’m more careful with my strategy.”
Korra nods. “Got it. You’re not the type to risk a lot on one piece, huh?”
“No, I’m not,” Asami says quietly. She leans forward to move another tile, and Korra watches as a sunbeam catches her perfectly, turning her to pure gold. “For me to risk it all for one thing, it would have to mean...the world, really.” She tucks a loose strand of hair behind her ear carefully. “It would have to mean everything to me.”)
Two days after Raiko’s curfew announcement, Korra and Bolin go to the outdoor market in Sakura Square. Despite the bright sunlight, there’s a chill in the air. The vendors’ smiles look strained; the customers look nervous, defensive. There’s an unsettling quiet in the square, a hushed hollowness in the way the vendors advertise their wares.
“This place is like a cemetery today,” Bolin mumbles, picking up an apple from the stand in front of them. “Feels like we should be digging graves, not shopping for fruit.” He pauses, realizing what he’s just said, but Korra only smiles grimly. Gallows humor; if Bolin is swinging, then so is she.
“We’ll be doing both soon enough,” she replies. “Multitasking, right?”
Bolin grabs another apple and a handful of lemons, putting them in the bag that Korra’s carrying. “You think it’s going to become an all-out war?”
Korra thinks of the drawn expressions on the hunter’s faces, of the weary lines around Lin’s mouth. She thinks of the city’s new coldness, the emptiness of the streets at night, the silence where cheerful conversations once were. She thinks of Asami, pressing her against the mattress, lips red and teeth bared.
“No,” she says. “I think it already has.”
They make their way around the market, buying fruit and bread and a bag of potatoes to replace the ones that Mako used for homemade french fries the night before - another night when he and Bolin had shown up unannounced at Korra’s apartment to have dinner. Before, Korra would’ve thought it was normal. Now, she thinks it’s because they want to make sure she’s okay.
“Oh, hey,” Bolin says, pointing to a small cart on the edge of the square. There’s an umbrella propped above it, the bright pink of the fabric an incongruous burst of color that doesn’t match the greyscale mood sweeping throughout the crowd. “Let’s get cherry blossom ices.”
Korra frowns. “Really? At a time like this?”
Bolin shrugs at her. “Hey, if we’re about to go to war with every vampire in the city, I think we deserve to get dessert first.”
There’s probably some kind of fault buried within that logic, but Korra can’t find it, so they walk over to the ice cart.
Bolin starts talking to the vendor, debating over the price of a triple scoop. Korra lets her attention wander around the square, her eyes settling briefly on each stall. A strange feeling runs through her, a prickling chill that lingers on the back of her neck. A recognition. A warning.
She scans the crowd searching for the source of this feeling, every one of her hunter’s senses crackling like lightning beneath her skin as her gaze flicks this way and that, trying to discern the shape of the threat. k
There’s a crash on the far side of the square, and a chorus of screams. Korra whips around in time to see a pile of fruit tumbling to the ground as the cart vendor scrambles frantically backwards. A knot of people gather around him, obscuring him from view, and then they draw back and Korra can see what’s disrupting the peace of the market.
She can’t believe her eyes.
There’s a vampire standing between the fruit carts, fangs fully exposed, his hands full of lemons pulled from the stall behind him. The sun shines down on him, but he doesn’t burn; instead, the light seems to bend around him like it’s afraid to touch him.
A vampire walking under daylight. The worst nightmare of every hunter on earth.
“Bolin,” Korra says, yanking on his sleeve to get his attention. “Bo, look .”
Bolin turns, his mouth dropping open. “What the fuck? A vampire? It’s daylight. That shouldn’t be possible. This can’t be happening.”
“Well, it is,” Korra says grimly. “And we have to stop it. Come on.”
They’re across the square in a flash, pulling weapons from their jacket pockets. Korra reaches the vampire first, wrapping an arm around his throat and pulling him into a headlock. Bolin braces a stake against the vampire’s chest, holding him in place.
“Let me go,” the vampire snarls, trying to pull away. Korra grips him even tighter, one hand pressed against his windpipe. The vampire chokes slightly. “Come on, let me go! You’re going to crease my jacket.”
Bolin gives him a weird look. “You’re worried about your jacket ?”
“It’s imported silk,” the vampire says sullenly.
“Yeah, whatever.” Korra yanks the vampire’s head back, twisting his neck into an uncomfortable position. She feels the heat rising in her blood. “There’s more important things to talk about here. How the fuck are you walking around in broad daylight?”
The vampire offers her a shrug. “It’s a good skincare routine?”
Korra grabs his collar and slams his head against the fruit stand. “Wrong answer. Either you start talking, or you get dusted here and now.”
“Okay!” the vampire yelps. “I can go out in daylight now, I don’t know how this works! Ask the boss! She came up with it, I don’t know anything else!”
Korra’s veins turn to ice water. Asami.
“The boss?” Bolin asks. “Who’s the boss? Tell us.”
Korra’s fist clenches. This is the answer to all her problems in one; the other hunters will learn that Asami is the coven leader, and Korra won’t have to be the one to tell them. She won’t have to explain why she didn’t tell them herself. She won’t have to answer for anything. She’ll be absolved without a struggle, liberated by a bloodless victory. And Asami -
Asami will be hunted down and killed.
The vampire opens his mouth, and Korra stakes him through the heart before he can say a word.
“Korra?” Bolin says, his voice shooting upwards and cracking into a squeak. “Why’d you do that? He was about to tell us who the new leader is!”
“We couldn’t trust the word of a guy like that,” Korra says shortly. “Report this to Lin, will you? I have something else I have to do.”
“Something else? Like what?”
“Like - like nothing. Forget it.”
Bolin puts a hand on Korra’s shoulder, looking directly into her eyes. “Korra, I love you, but what are you doing? I’ve been so worried about you lately. You’re not yourself.”
Korra thinks of a quote she’d read once, in the first and only literature class she ever took before she gave up on college, trading books for weapons and days for nights: Nobody is who they were before the war.
No, I’m not myself, she wants to say. I lost a part of me, and I don’t think it’ll ever come back. I don’t think she’ll ever come back.
“I’ll be fine, Bolin,” she says. “Just do this for me, okay? Please?”
“Okay,” Bolin says, his green eyes wide and full of unwavering faith. “I will. I trust you.”
Korra’s stomach aches, tangling around a knot of guilt. She can’t find the right words to say, so she just nods in return.
(Korra goes over to the Sato mansion one morning, bringing takeaway waffles and two cups of coffee along with her. She suffers through the typical awkward exchange with the butler, who seems to regard her as either wholly unintelligent or just too poor to understand how to work the doorbell properly, and then makes her way through the house and out the back door, then across the backyard.
The mansion might be grand, but as far as Korra’s concerned, the best part of the entire Sato estate is the one-story building near the racetrack.
“Hey,” Korra calls out, pushing open the door to Asami’s workshop.
Asami looks up from one of her workbenches, pushing a pair of safety goggles upwards onto her forehead. A stray curl of hair falls across her face, and Korra’s eyes are automatically drawn to it. She wants to cross the room and brush it back for her, wants to tuck it behind her ear and then press a kiss to Asami’s forehead.
Instead, she wraps her fingers more tightly around the coffee cups in her hands and steps farther into the room.
“Oh, hi,” Asami says, smiling at her. “You’re up early. Weren’t you out on the streets last night with Mako? I thought you wouldn’t be awake until noon at least.”
“I do not sleep in that late,” Korra replies indignantly. “You’re confusing me with Bolin.” She holds out the carton of waffles. “I brought us breakfast.”
“Sweet,” Asami says. “I was just about to take a break anyways. We can sit over here.” She turns to another workbench and starts clearing away a stack of papers and tools off of it, then pulls two wooden stools over.
Korra takes a seat across from her, sliding one of the coffee cups across the bench. “Here. Large battery acid for you.”
“Black, no sugar,” Asami replies. “Thanks.” She takes a large sip, and Korra winces instinctively. “How was patrol last night?”
“Pretty good,” Korra says, cracking open the waffles carton and grabbing the syrup cup. “Killed about ten vamps, the ones who murdered those teenagers over on the west side last week. They were in this old disco bar on Cranefish Lane.”
“Don’t tell me they were actually there for the music.”
“I wish I could. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the truth.” Korra passes Asami the syrup. “The wigs that those vamps were wearing were so ugly, killing them should have counted as community service.”
Asami laughs, and the sound is bright and airy against the dusty air of the workshop. “I wish I’d been there for that.”
“Bolin said that too,” Korra says, tipping her stool backwards to rest two legs against the wall. “I think that you’re both underestimating the sheer ugliness of disco wigs.”
“Maybe you’re underestimating my love for disco music,” Asami says, the corner of her mouth curving upwards. “Hey, I’m going to open the windows. Don’t eat the last strawberry waffle.”
Asami throws open the bay window above her draft desk, letting a warm, sweet-smelling breeze blow into the room. Korra leans back against the wall, reveling in the feeling of golden peace that’s fallen over them. It feels good, like sunlight and springtime and Saturday mornings with Asami.
She reaches over and cuts the strawberry waffle in two pieces, stuffing one half into her mouth while Asami’s still facing away from her.
“I saw that,” Asami says, turning.
“I left half for you,” Korra replies, winking at her. “I could tell you didn’t want the whole thing.”
Asami rolls her eyes, but she’s smiling as she sits down again. “What would I do without you, Korra?”
“You’d be miserable,” Korra teases. “You’d probably cry about missing me at least once a week. Who knows, maybe you’d build a giant statue of me to help deal with your loss.” She takes another sip of coffee, then frowns as a memory from the night before suddenly surfaces. “Hey, I just remembered. Something weird happened on patrol last night.”
Asami looks up from buttering another waffle. “What?”
“One of the vampires I met knew my name.”
Asami’s head snaps up, and there’s a worried set to her mouth that causes Korra physical pain; the worry that’s written on Asami’s face carves a hollow space in Korra’s chest, pushing between her ribs.
“You did?” Asami says, a little too casually. Korra pretends not to hear the slight hitch in her voice.
“Yeah, we were fighting,” Korra says, “and right before I dusted him, he yelled it’s that bitch Korra! Kill her! to his friends.” She smiles wryly. “Needless to say, that didn’t work out the way he planned it.” Her eyes flick upwards to meet Asami’s. “I was never in any danger. He was no match for me.”
Asami smirks, but there’s still a hint of concern lingering in her eyes. “Still, if they know you by name now…”
“I’ll be fine,” Korra assures her. “Honestly, with my reputation, I’m kind of offended that they didn’t know my name before.”
Asami taps her fingers against the bench absently; a pattern of short and long, a message repeated over and over. Korra watches, wishing that she knew Morse Code, wishing that she could break down the layers that still lie between them.
And then Asami’s left eyebrow quirks upwards, a barely noticeable movement, and Korra understands.
“Hey,” she says. She rests her hand on top of Asami’s, a soft and careful touch. Asami instantly ceases tapping her fingers. “I’ll be alright, okay? I won’t let anything happen to me.” She squeezes Asami’s hand gently, fingers pressed against the fluttering pulse in her wrist, and feels her own pulse spike in response. “I won’t go anywhere. I mean, without me around, who would eat your leftover waffles?”
“Bolin would,” Asami says, wrapping her fingers around Korra’s. “Sorry. I know you’re more than capable of looking after yourself.” She bites her lower lip, frowning slightly, her gaze sliding beyond Korra to a space that only she can reach. “It’s just that after my mom died, it made me more frightened of losing people who matter to me. And you - ” Her eyes focus again, and she’s looking at Korra now, wrapping her in endless depths of emerald. Korra returns the look, and they’re speaking without words. They’re falling to the bottom of the ocean.
“You matter to me,” Asami says quietly, “more than anyone I’ve ever met.”
“You matter to me, too,” Korra replies, her voice dipping below a murmur. “So much.” It’s almost as good as a confession, but neither of them say it.
“Anyways,” Asami says, her voice back to normal, and the moment falls apart.
Korra looks away from Asami, glancing over at the big workbench by the door. It’s only then that she realizes it’s covered in metal spheres full of delicate wiring and small triangular crystals, more delicate work than she's ever seen in this workshop. Asami’s projects are usually bigger and bolder: moped designs, satomobile engines, airship blueprints.
“What are those?” she asks curiously, nodding towards the workbench.
“Holy water explosives,” Asami says, reaching for one of them and holding it up to the light so that Korra can see it better. “I thought that if I wired a cryogenically frozen crystal of holy water into the centrifuge of a bolt-copper wiring mainframe, maybe it could create a slow-release chain of detonations that - ”
“Whoa, whoa,” Korra says, holding up a hand. “Slow down with the engineer speak. There’s dumb people in the room.”
“Sorry,” Asami says, flashing her a grin. “Forgot to play to my audience. Basically, if I can get it to work, these will explode and shower holy water within a ten foot radius. Should be harmless to humans and infrastructure…”
“...but deadly to vamps,” Korra finishes for her. “Asami, I already knew this, but holy shit . You’re a genius. Don’t tell her I said this, but these will be so much better than Lin’s heat grenades.”
“Maybe,” Asami says. “I still haven’t quite figured it out yet.”
“You will,” Korra says confidently. “I’m sure of it.”
“I hope so,” Asami says. “Here, since you’re being so supportive, you can have the last waffle.” She passes the carton to Korra, along with the cup of syrup.
Their fingers brush a moment too long in the handoff. Neither of them mention it.)
The warehouse stands in front of her, tall and long, a storage space built from sharp angles and corners. Korra stares up at the words painted above the sliding doors: Sato Industries. She grits her teeth.
In her pocket, crumpled tight between her curled fingers, is the note that she’d found on the door when she’d returned to the apartment. Warehouse 7, tomorrow at noon, in handwriting she knows better than her own.
The sun is at its zenith high above her, casting golden rays of light across the city. Korra slowly walks forward until she’s standing directly in front of the warehouse entrance. She doesn’t know what exactly she’s walking into, but she won’t be unprepared; she’s got stakes and seraph blades and holy water, and a burning desire for answers that smolders in her chest.
She takes a deep breath and then kicks the heavy doors open.
“I’m here,” she calls out, without taking another step. She’s still on the threshold, still in the light. “What do you want?”
Asami appears in the doorway, standing in the shadow of the roof, and the sight of her is enough to ignite the flames of Korra’s anger all over again. There’s another flash of heat beneath that, one that remembers the way Asami’s mouth felt on hers, but she pushes it down.
“Korra,” Asami says, eyes flickering over Korra’s body as if to assess whether she’s armed. “You came.”
“I did,” Korra says, crossing her arms. “I have questions for you.”
“I knew you would,” Asami says. “That’s why I left you that note. I knew I’d have things to answer for.”
Korra feels her fists clench, her breath quicken. Once again, Asami is compliant, agreeable. She’s offering Korra what she wants without making it a challenge, and for some reason, that makes Korra angrier than ever. She wants Asami to defy her, to fight her, to throw a punch or draw a weapon.
She needs Asami to be her enemy, because Korra doesn’t know what she’ll become if she isn’t.
“That vampire,” Korra says. “He could walk in daylight. He strolled right into the marketplace without a care, and the sun didn’t turn him to ash.” She pauses for effect, her eyes boring into Asami, her gaze a wordless interrogation of its own. “And he said that it was because of you.”
Asami lowers her eyes. “It was.”
Korra’s stomach pitches, throwing itself overboard. She feels sick and angry, and something worse - betrayed. This is different from Asami’s lies, different from her resurrection, different even from her previous attacks against the city. For Asami to give vampires the power to walk in daylight…
It means that she’s dooming the entire city with one singular action. It’s a lit match thrown on a pile of tinder, and Republic City is the thing that will burn up in the blaze.
“You couldn’t have,” Korra says bleakly. “You couldn’t . You were a hunter once.” You were one of us. “You know what it means if vampires can walk free during the day. Have you really fallen so far from grace that you’ve forgotten all your morals? Don’t you know how many people will die? Don’t you care at all ?”
“I do,” Asami says steadily. “I wasn’t going to give that power to the entire coven. I was just testing it. Varrick volunteered willingly. I didn’t know he was going to walk into the marketplace like an idiot.”
“How did you even do this?” Korra asks. “Vampires have always been daylight averse. It’s always been the only thing keeping them in check. How could you change that?”
“I made chip implants,” Asami says. She presses one hand to the back of her neck, fingers tracing the top of her spine, a flash of smooth, pale skin; for a moment, Korra longs to brush her fingers over the same spot. “They’re complicated, but they use a chemical reaction from crystalline holy water encased in quicksilver. That mixture can be explosive, but I figured out a way around that. Now it’s just a protective agent.”
“Always the clever one,” Korra says savagely. “And when you give these chips to every vampire in the city and overrun us, what then?”
“I won’t,” Asami says. “That was never my plan. The only other people who even know about these chips are Zhu Li and - well, Varrick knew, but that’s no longer an issue.” Her frown tightens. “Seeing as you killed him.”
“I did what I had to do,” Korra says, stone faced. “I can’t believe you gave a chip like that to an idiot like him.”
Asami looks away, glancing at the inside of the warehouse. Piles of machinery are stored in towering stacks surrounding them; Korra thinks, briefly, that it looks as if they’ll come tumbling down at any minute.
“I didn’t have a choice,” Asami says at last. “I needed someone else to test them on.”
“Someone else ?”
Asami stays silent, still not looking at her, and then Korra understands.
“Asami,” she says. “ Asami . Tell me you didn’t.”
Asami says nothing. Sunlight cascades down around them, marking the boundary between them; light and dark, a hardline drawn with unerring precision. Korra in sun, Asami in shadow. It’s the border between vampire and human, the oldest and starkest difference, the only thing that keeps them balanced.
As Korra watches, Asami slowly steps forward into the daylight. She moves carefully and deliberately, eyes fixed on Korra’s, and she does not burn.
They’re both in the sunlight now, but Korra feels lost in darkness.
“You tested one on yourself,” Korra says at last.
“I had to,” Asami says. “This could change everything.” She pauses, as if remembering something. “Korra, I have to tell you. There’s going to be a fight this week, a big one. We’re spreading our forces across the city. You’ll have to try and counter us. I can’t stop it. All I can do is warn you.”
Korra shakes her head, softly at first, then violently. She feels all this new information boiling to a peak between her ears, her mind tossing like a ship on a stormy sea. It’s all too much.
“Why?” she asks, the words spilling out in a desperate rush. “Why are you doing this? Why ?”
“I promised the coven, when I became leader,” Asami answers. “I would lead them to victory if they would give me something in return.” She tucks a lock of hair behind her ear, and Korra resents the familiarity of the gesture. “We don’t want to kill the humans, Korra. We just want an equal share of the city. How long have we been crammed into the sewers and back alleys and slums while humans walk free in three quarters of the city? How long have we been confined to the worst side of town?”
“That’s not - ” Korra shakes her head again. “You’re vampires. That’s how it has to be.”
“Because you’re monsters!”
“Look at me,” Asami says. Her voice turns quieter, softer, almost on the verge of pleading. “Look at me, Korra. Am I a monster to you?”
Korra wants to say yes. The word is sitting between her lips, ready to fall, but then she looks at Asami - sunlight in her hair, green eyes shining, so much like the Asami she once knew - and she can’t say it.
“Tell me what you asked for,” she says instead. “In return for leading the coven.”
Asami doesn’t answer.
“ Tell me ,” Korra says, the command ringing out between them in waves of flattened sound.
“I asked them to spare your life,” Asami says quietly. “You were public enemy number one, the most hated hunter in the city. Every single vampire in the coven was targeting you. They wanted you dead. I didn’t want to attack the city, but you - I couldn’t let - ” The rest of her sentence drops away unfinished.
Korra lets out a sharp, disbelieving laugh that tears from her throat like a wound. “Even if I needed you to protect me, I don’t believe that for a second. You, sacrificing the board for one piece? You’ve always been the master of strategy. You’d never do something this stupid.”
“I would,” Asami murmurs, “if...” She trails off again, and memory rises to fill the silence; Korra thinks of a sun-drenched room, a red and white game board, a lingering moment that felt like forever.
Korra feels like her heart is ripping itself to pieces. She’s wanted this for so long, but now that she has it, it’s all wrong. Asami looks at her warily and Korra stares back, dares her to keep talking. The silence between them threatens to swallow them whole; love loads six bullets and spins the chamber. Let’s play a game of chance, it says. Am I a weapon, or a fact?
Say it, Korra thinks, and then: no, don’t. She doesn’t have to worry; they’ve never been able to speak when it truly counted.
“I would,” Asami says again, and nothing more.
(On the one year anniversary of the day they met, Korra invites Asami over for dinner at her apartment. Mako and Bolin are there already, Mako lounging on the couch with a video game controller and Bolin sticking his fingers into the bowl of cake mixture that Korra is stirring.
“Enough,” Korra says, snapping a dish towel at his wrist. Bolin yelps in protest and jumps back, almost knocking over a bag of flour.
“Rude,” Bolin mumbles, sitting down at the kitchen counter. “I can’t believe you’d deny your oldest friend a tiny taste of cake batter.”
“I’m her oldest friend,” Mako calls from the sofa, where he’s steering his car through the Kyoshi Island racecourse. “I met her first.”
Bolin rolls his eyes to high heaven. “Yeah, five minutes before me. There’s practically no difference.” He stretches one hand surreptitiously towards the bowl again, and Korra raps him on the back of the hand with a wooden spoon. “Ow!”
“Stop trying to steal the batter,” Korra warns him. “I want this cake to be perfect. Or edible, at least.”
“Yeah, good luck with that,” Mako says. “I remember the cupcakes you made for my birthday last year. I had food poisoning for three days afterwards.”
Korra sighs and gives the batter one last stir before dumping it into a pan and shoving it into the oven. She presses her forehead to the warm glass window, whispering a little prayer that the cake will work out.
Mako gets up and wanders over to join them in the kitchen, looking around inquisitively at the pots on the stove. He removes the lid from a pan, taking an experimental spoonful of sauce. “At least this tastes okay.”
“Try the egg rolls,” Bolin says, gesturing to another pan. “Those were good.”
“Bo,” Korra says exasperatedly, “you’re just saying that because you made them.”
There’s a knock on the door; it opens before she can answer it, and Asami steps inside.
There’s a tug in Korra’s chest, a small burst of warmth that burns like a star. Asami is wearing a casual shirt and black jeans, and her hair is falling loose around her shoulders in slightly damp waves.
Korra has seen Asami so many times over the past year, seen her in everything from ballroom formal wear to clubbing outfits to pajamas, but she doesn’t think she’s ever looked more beautiful than she does tonight. She looks relaxed and soft, as comfortable in Korra’s apartment as she would be in her own workshop, and Korra loves it.
“Hi” Asami says. “I brought this.” She holds out a bottle of wine, which Mako takes from her.
“Hey, Asami,” Bolin says. “I made egg rolls. Spring vegetable, your favorite.”
“Thanks, Bo,”Asami replies, leaning over to grab a handful of chips from the bowl on the table.
“I’d be careful with those,” Korra whispers to her. “He used way too much garlic.”
“Did not,” Bolin says indignantly. “I used as many cloves as the recipe called for, that’s it. Fifty.”
Asami’s eyebrows raise. “Fifty?”
“Bo, you idiot,” Mako says, nudging him. “Look at the recipe. There’s no zero. You were supposed to use five, not fifty.”
“No, it’s fifty,” Bolin insists. He pulls the printed-out recipe towards him, pressing his finger against the paper. “Oh.”
Mako and Asami laugh, and so does Korra. Asami bends over slightly, leans into Korra as she does; she laughs again and Korra feels it against her lips, a warm flutter that leaves her breathless. She wraps one arm around Asami’s waist and leans her head against Asami’s shoulder, thinking of silent confession.
“Everything good?” Asami asks, close enough that Korra can see the curl of her eyelashes.
Korra presses her shoulder against Asami’s, drinking her in: summer freckles not yet faded, lips painted a soft shade of red, hair smelling of jasmine and vanilla. So quintessentially Asami that Korra’s heart almost hurts from swelling with love.
“Yeah,” she says. “Everything’s good.”
The cake comes out slightly lopsided, but nobody cares; it’s delicious anyway, and the strawberry icing hides the imperfection. The four of them sit on the couch by the TV, plates of food spread across the coffee table, a mess of jokes and laughter and playful arguments as they relive memories from the past year.
Korra rests her head back against the arm of the sofa, smiling to herself as the evening relaxes into night and their conversation grows looser. They switch back and forth, talking in slow, lazy circles: remember the time when Bolin jumped in that fountain and remember when Mako out-swindled that street swindler and what about that time Asami won the arcade jackpot on one spin and the guy behind the counter fainted.
“One whole year together,” Asami says at one point, tipping her head back to gaze up at the ceiling. “I can’t believe it’s been that long already.”
A silence falls over them then, but it’s not awkward. There’s a good feeling settling throughout the room, a warm and comfortable current of love, and it’s more than friendship. It’s family.
“We should have a Kyoshi and the Warriors marathon,” Bolin says at last, “for old time’s sake. That was the third week after they’d befriended Asami; the four of them had gathered at Mako and Bolin’s apartment and watched reruns until five in the morning.
“Sounds good to me,” Asami says, reaching over to tousle his hair. “Mako? Korra?”
“Perfect,” Korra agrees. “You set it up, I’ll clear the plates.”
Asami flashes her a smile, turns to the TV; Korra gathers a stack of dishes, walks out to the kitchen. She places them in the sink, then pauses where she’s standing, looking back into the living room. Asami is lit by the glow of the screen, laughing with Bolin about something that Korra can’t hear, and she looks absolutely radiant. Korra can’t help smiling to herself at the sight.
Asami just feels like she belongs in Korra’s apartment, like she’s coming home every time she walks through the door. There’s something so natural about it; Korra could swear that her living room wasn’t complete without Asami stretched out on the couch.
“Hey,” Mako says quietly, and Korra jumps. She hadn't noticed that he’d followed her out.
Mako places the empty soy sauce bowl in the sink, then glances at Korra almost shyly. “You really love her, don’t you?”
Korra almost chokes. “What? Who?”
“Asami. I see the way you look at her.” Mako blushes a little bit, embarrassed as always to be talking about emotional things. Usually Korra would make fun of him for it, but now she remains silent, because his words have struck at something deep inside of her. “It’s like she’s your whole world. You’re in love with her, aren’t you.”
“Yeah,” Korra admits, exhaling slowly. “You’re not mad, right? I know you had a crush on her when she first joined our group.”
Mako turns redder. “I did not. Okay, maybe I did, but I got over that a long time ago. I’m into that guy from the coffee shop, remember?”
“Oh yeah,” Korra recalls. “Wu, right? Have you talked to him yet?”
“Have you talked to Asami?”
“Touché.” Korra starts running the water in the sink just for something to do with her hands. “Don't tell her, okay? I don’t want to ruin anything between us. I mean, I was always kind of into her, because - well, look at her - but I never meant to fall for her.” She scrubs halfheartedly at one of the plates. “But then she was smart as well as beautiful, and kind as well as funny, and she was just so good ...how could I not love her?”
“Korra, Mako,” Asami calls from the other room. “Are you coming?”
“I know I'm not good with this kind of thing,” Mako says, his last words before they leave the kitchen. “But I think you’d be perfect together. You’ll figure it out eventually.”
“Maybe,” Korra says. Asami smiles at her; Korra smiles back, and it feels like they’ve lived this moment a thousand times before.
Yeah, Korra thinks. We’ll get there someday. )
The next week is filled with even more battles than before - skirmishes, street fights, an all out brawl on the steps of the town hall. The vampires grow bolder and bolder with each night, driving the hunters back through sheer weight of numbers, tearing through the city like they’ve never dared to before.
Korra falls into a brutal rhythm, an endless and ruthless cycle of eat, sleep, damage assessment, battle strategy, hunting. She gets splinters lodged in her hands, cuts slashed across her arms. She aches all over from punches and kicks, her entire body a breathing bruise.
Every hunter in the city is facing the same struggle, fighting exhaustion and injury along with vampires. The city has settled into a scale permanently tipped; they fight nights and rest days, too fatigued to use the daylight respite for anything other than rest and recovery.
“We’re fighting a losing battle,” Bolin says one day, sitting next to Korra on the worn carpet of Lin’s office. “They have forever to fight. We don’t. How can we compete with that?”
“We keep fighting,” Lin replies sternly. “The way we always have.”
“But we’ve never fought like this,” Mako says, so quietly that it’s almost inaudible.
“You think I don’t know that, kid?” Lin rubs a hand across her face, and Korra is struck by just how old she looks in this moment. “We have to keep going. We don't have a choice.”
We do, Korra wants to say, but she can’t. Asami’s proposition pushes against the inside of her mouth, trying to break free; Korra chokes it down again, forces herself to remain silent. Suggesting a compromise between vampires and humans isn’t just impossible, it’s also treasonous. Republic City has never yielded to the coven before, and one look at the grim set of Lin’s mouth tells Korra that they aren’t going to start now.
“No way but forward,” Lin says, softer, almost to herself. She leaves the office without another word, and Korra watches through the open door as Kya walks up to her. Kya opens her arms and Lin leans forward into the embrace, head resting on her shoulder for just a second of weakness; Korra glimpses the expression on Kya’s face as she hugs Lin, worried and open and full of love, and has to look away as it pulls at an ache deep inside of her.
There’s no other way, she tells herself. Asami made her choice, and now we have to live with it.
It sounds convincing, and yet there’s something hovering at the edge of her mind that disagrees. Something that says: there’s another path, you just have to take it.
“Curfew siren’s sounding,” Mako says wearily. “Time to go out on the streets again.”
How long can we keep going on like this? Korra thinks. How can we possibly last?
She gets up and follows Mako and Bolin out, wondering just how far this can stretch before something breaks irreparably.
It all comes to a peak on Sunday night, the battles finally tipping over into breaking point, a comet crashing to earth. The vampires swarm the city, overwhelming the hunters, setting buildings on fire, breaking car windshields and store windows. The city is burning, and the hunters are all but powerless to stop it.
They have to try anyway, though.
“This way,” Korra shouts, sprinting down a wide avenue in the center of the city. Bolin and Mako follow her, flanked by two other hunters at their sides. All throughout the street, figures wrestle between the dancing bursts of orange flame that flicker along the storefronts. “We need to protect the town hall.”
A vampire lunges at her, slamming a fist into her jaw; Korra tastes salt, hears the crack of bone against bone. She spits out a mouthful of blood and stakes him, dust crumbling around her.
“You okay?” Bolin shouts.
“Fine,” Korra answers. “We have to keep moving.”
There’s a scream from the left, a high pitched sound of pure fear that cuts through the smoky air, and Mako hesitates. “Human,” he says tensely. “We have to help.”
Korra glances at the two hunters that are with them: two teenagers, children really. Barely seventeen, too young to die tonight, their faces streaked with dirt but set in determination. “Go,” she says to them. “Check that out. And come back alive.”
They nod and run down the street.
The town hall is in view now, the doors and roof blown off, flames licking at the upper windows. There’s another explosion to their right, a loud boom that echoes through Korra’s ribcage, and a sound of screeching tires and shattering glass.
“This is insane,” Bolin says, his eyes wide with fear. “This is insane . How are we supposed to deal with all of this?”
There’s a crackle in Korra’s ear, and she presses one hand to her comm. Lin’s voice comes through indistinctly, but Korra gets the message: get to City Hall, try to protect whoever’s left in there.
“Come on,” she yells. They run across the square and up the cracked steps of City Hall, ash raining down around them. There are two vampires at the entrance; Mako takes one out, Bolin handles the other. Korra leads them into the building, feeling something rising in her throat; it’s hot and copper, blood and fear, disaster heavy in her mouth. For the first time in her hunting career, she is truly scared.
The council room is deserted, and the roof is gone completely; the night sky is visible through the jagged hole. The vampires must have gotten explosives somewhere.
“Someone’s there,” Mako warns, pointing to the area behind the judge’s bench. “Come out where we can see.”
Korra is hit with a powerful sense of deja vu, a dizzying spiral of familiarity pushing behind her eyes. The vampire moves forward, and Korra’s heart stops.
Run, she wants to yell, but the word won’t come.
The shattered remains of the doors crash against the wall, and Lin comes running in. “Raiko’s still here somewhere,” she announces. “We need to find him before - ” She stops talking, rendered mute by shock, as Asami steps out of the shadows.
The five of them stand still, a tableau vivant, frozen between comedy and tragedy. Asami meets Lin’s gaze steadily, unwavering even beneath the cold steel of Lin’s glare.
“Sato,” Lin growls, and Korra watches the barely imperceptible twitch of Asami’s left eyebrow; you’re not your father, she wants to say, but there’s no time. “You’re alive. You’ve turned.” She turns to face Korra, surveys Mako and Bolin. “Did you know about this?”
“I did,” Korra admits, feeling a thousand pounds lift briefly from her shoulders before they crash back down with double the force.
Lin’s eyes narrow dangerously. “Korra. You knew?”
“Yes,” Korra says. No more lies. “Mako and Bolin didn’t - ”
“I knew,” Bolin says quietly.
Korra stares at him, surprised. “You did?”
“Yeah,” Bolin says. “Remember when you first told us she was alive, back at the hotel? I always believed you. I knew you wouldn’t lie to us about that.” He faces Asami now, a wry smile touching his lips. “Besides, I’ve played a million games of pai sho against her, and lost every time. I know what her strategy looks like better than anyone.”
“So you lied to me,” Lin says flatly. “Both of you.”
“I didn’t want to,” Bolin says, on the verge of tears now. Korra aches for him; he’s always been the best and kindest of them all. “But I couldn’t let you find out, because I couldn’t risk you killing her. She’s Asami. She’s our friend.”
Asami inhales, a quick gasp of breath. Korra’s heart pounds faster, beating against her ribs relentlessly.
“She was our friend,” Lin says stonily. “She’s a vampire now. You’re hunters; you know what that means. She’s nothing but our enemy.” Her hand moves towards her stake, and Korra’s muscles tense, ready to spring forward - whether to stop Lin or help her, she’s not sure.
“It’s true that we’re enemies right now,” Asami says. “But we don’t have to be. Lin, you’re the leader of the hunters. You could get us an audience with Raiko, broker a peace treaty. All we want is free rein in the city.”
“You’re insane,” Lin spits. “Your coven is lucky to even get the backstreets. You don’t deserve more. That is not a viable option for the future - not now, not ever.”
“And this is?” Asami sweeps out a hand, points to the destruction in the street. It’s a mess of chaotic destruction. Shadowy figures fight on the sidewalk, in the road. Fire glows dusky orange against the night, smoke and haze filling the air. Sirens wail in the distance, over the sound of explosions and breaking glass. It’s a scene from a nightmare.
“We’ve always been fighting this way,” Asami continues. “It’s just that this is the first time we’ve been open about it. Whether a true war or death by a thousand cuts, the human and vampire conflict will never be a good thing. It’s time to make peace.” Her expression softens until she’s nothing but human, familiar and trustworthy. Looking at her, Korra’s heart clenches. She wants to believe in Asami, wants to believe that there’s another way; Asami’s eyes glow spring green even in the dark, and Korra wants and wants and wants -
“Please, Lin,” Asami says. “Give me a chance. You talk to Raiko, I’ll call off the coven. We can have a ceasefire. There can be peace in this city, true peace, for the first time.”
Lin hesitates one more moment.
“You’re a strategist, too,” Asami says quietly. “You know this is the best option.”
There’s a moment before Lin’s decision when Korra can’t breathe, can’t think, can’t do anything but look at Asami. No way but forward.
“Okay,” Lin says finally. “We’ll try it.”
Bolin sighs with relief, and so does Mako. Asami nods in acknowledgement, and her gaze darts to Korra’s for one quick moment, eyes meeting like lovers’ hands: a compromise, a ceasefire.
(Asami shows up at Korra’s apartment one afternoon in late spring, entering without knocking, simply walking in like it’s her own home.
“Alright,” she announces, in lieu of a proper greeting. “No more excuses. I’m teaching you to drive.”
Korra sighs from where she’s lying on the sofa. “Not this again. I told you, it’ll end tragically. I’m too young to die.”
“You’re so dramatic,” Asami says, her mouth half curled around a laugh. “Come on, Korra. There’s an emergency brake on the passenger side. I’ll be in control the whole time.”
It’s not what she meant, not remotely, but Korra can’t help hearing the innuendo in the sentence; heat rises in her cheeks, and she coughs slightly.
“And,” Asami continues, “even if we do end up crashing, there’s nothing that could happen that I wouldn’t be able to fix.”
“What if we crash and die?” Korra says. She’s partly joking, partly not; she has no faith in her ability to steer a vehicle of any kind, not since the day at the arcade when she accidentally flipped her bumper car over the guardrail. “Pretty sure that would be hard to fix.”
“I’d manage it,” Asami says. She winks. “Couldn’t let you die. That would be like letting the sun go out.”
Korra feels her mouth drop open, heat painting across her face. Asami’s joking, obviously joking, but it affects Korra anyways; she’s usually the one who pushes the boundary, makes flirtatious comments passed off as jokes. Asami is usually on the receiving end. This is uncharted territory for them, and Korra -
Korra likes it.
“Okay,” she says, still blushing. “Let’s do this.”
“I’m serious,” Asami says as they leave the apartment. Korra pauses to listen, the door half closed, Asami leaning against the woodwork. “I’d fix us even from beyond the grave.”
It’s another of those things they’ve been saying more often lately - things that could be light jest or heavy truth, depending on how they land. There’s a deeper gravity to all their conversations now, a pull that’s almost irresistible, leading them past the breakers and into the deeps; Korra smiles at Asami now, imagines an ocean.
“I know,” she replies.
“Okay,” Asami says, leaning over to point at the pedals beneath Korra’s feet. They’re sitting in one of her satomobiles, parked in an empty lot overlooking the bay. “Left is brake, right is gas. The transmission is automatic, so don’t worry about shifting gears. Turn signals are here.” She taps a small lever next to the wheel.
Korra glances doubtfully at the controls, then at the parking lot. It’s completely empty, but it looks small all of a sudden. “Are you sure this is a good idea?”
“Trust me,” Asami says. “I’ll hit the other brake if we need to stop.”
“Okay,” Korra mumbles, shifting the gear from park to drive. She swallows hard and presses slightly on the gas pedal, and the car moves forward about a foot. “Okay, this isn’t so bad.”
“You can start to speed up a little now,” Asami says, and Korra grins. She doesn’t know why she was worrying so much. This is easy. She pushes the gas pedal again, and the car jerks forward. “Hey, this is fun.”
“Careful - ” Asami starts, but Korra isn’t listening. She floors it, twirling the steering wheel at random as they speed around the parking lot. Wind comes rushing through the open windows, blowing Asami’s hair in wisps around her face, and it’s so pretty that Korra can’t concentrate on the road; she glances over at Asami, heart racing, unable to tear her eyes away from the strand of hair curling loose around Asami’s jawline, so distracted that she doesn’t notice the way they’re careening towards the curb.
“Korra, brake ,” Asami shouts, and Korra fumbles for it, but she’s too late. They hit the curb with a bang, and there’s a metallic-sounding crunch that makes Korra flinch.
“Fuck,” she says, wincing. “Sorry about that.”
“It’s fine,” Asami says, laughing. “I can fix that easily.” She leans back in her seat, sighs.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Asami says, not quite looking at her. “I don’t know. I got in another fight with my dad today.”
“Again?” Korra gives her a sympathetic smile, hiding her worry behind the corner of her mouth. She knows that Asami and her father have been fighting; it’s always been tense between them, something she knows from nights spent listening to Asami talk about their strained relationship, but it’s gotten worse lately.
“All the time now, it feels like.” Asami presses a palm to her forehead tiredly. “It’s because I’ve been going out more and more often this year. He thinks I’m neglecting my studies.”
“Oh,” Korra says, her stomach dropping. “This year...It’s because of us, isn’t it.” She scrambles for a solution, anything to make Asami happier. “I can talk to Lin, get you a lighter patrol schedule, or you can take a break altogether…”
“No,” Asami interrupts. “Korra, no. I don’t want to spend less time with you.” Singular or plural; the way she looks at Korra tells her she meant it both ways. “He’s intent on molding me into the perfect heir to Sato Industries, but he doesn’t - he doesn’t even know that I don’t want to inherit the company.”
“ Oh ,” Korra says. “Asami, I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine,” Asami murmurs. “It’s just - for so long, I based my self-worth on accomplishing milestones on the path to inheriting Sato Industries, but after I met you and Mako and Bolin...well, I realized there’s more to life than just the company. I don’t need to be a CEO to do good in my life, you know? People will still like me no matter what I become. At least, I hope they will.”
“Of course,” Korra says firmly. “Asami, you don’t owe him anything. You don’t owe anyone anything. You could be a hermit living in the woods and I’d still like you. And so would Mako, and so would Bolin, and so would everyone else in the world.”
“Thanks,” Asami says, smiling. The sun’s setting now, orange light slanting across the bay and filling the car, framing Asami in a wash of tangerine. She leans forward, and before Korra can react, kisses her on the cheek.
Korra’s heart practically gives out. She can't find enough air in her lungs, can’t remember where her heart is; her pulse is racing in her wrists, pulling her across a line she can’t remember drawing.
“You were wrong when you said I don’t owe anyone anything,” Asami says softly. “I owe you .” She reaches over, pushes a lock of Korra’s hair carefully behind her ear. “I owe you a lot, Korra.”
The way she says it almost sounds like she’s saying something else, but Korra doesn’t read into it. She knows better than to hope for that much.)
The battle is over, but the true war is just beginning.
Korra sits in the brightly lit council room of City Hall, hands tense and tight around the bottle of water in front of her. The room has been hastily repaired, and it shows: there’s splotches of uneven paint on the walls, plywood bracing against the new ceiling. It’s fragile and new, hints of violence still showing through the thin veneer of reconstruction; Korra can’t help but see that as a metaphor.
Raiko sits unsmiling at the head of the table, Lin and Kya on his right. Mako and Bolin sit across from Korra. In the first row of benches before the table, four of Raiko’s staff sit ready to take notes and minutes, or provide supporting materials.
Asami sits at the foot of the table with another woman - Zhu Li, Asami’s lieutenant and second in command of the coven. The woman who’d saved Asami after she was turned.
Korra knows that technically she should be grateful to Zhu Li, and she wants to be, but she can’t quite manage it. As she looks at Zhu Li, the picture of orderliness in a turtleneck sweater and secretary glasses, all she can think is: you took her from me.
“Let’s begin,” Raiko says. He pulls out a folder, flips it open to reveal a multi-page document. “The coven has requested an equal allotment of territory within the city, and representation within the city government, and they expect us to follow through with this, in spite of waging war on us and creating around 100, 000 yuan worth of damages, not to mention injuring countless civilians in the past two weeks.”
Across the table, Asami tenses. Her left eyebrow twitches, so quickly that the motion is nothing but a blur, but Korra catalogues the movement, notes the tension in Asami’s fingers against the table, and she can’t help it; despite the war, despite the animosity, despite the miles of unbroached subjects and unnavigable space between them, Korra aches to reach for her.
“If you will allow me to say so, President,” Asami says, calm and deliberate, and Korra knows that she’s not the only one who hears the dangerous undertones. There’s sirens in Asami’s voice, warning of an oncoming storm.
“We fought not to create chaos, but to bring change. There was no way to peacefully resolve this. The coven has tried that way before, back in times where I was not their leader, and it never got us anywhere.”
Korra frowns, seeing her confusion mirrored on Bolin’s face. She casts her memory back and finds a memory - they’re nineteen and sitting in Lin’s office, listening to her rant about a proposed peace treaty: this will never work, it’s an obvious trap, Raiko will never fall for this. We are not foolish children who will fall for simple deceptions. We will never make peace with the vampires.
She glances at Lin’s face, drawn and unreadable, and knows that she remembers too.
“We have asked,” Asami says, her voice ringing clearly in the silence of the council room. “We have asked and asked, and never received. But it can be different now. We can turn over a new leaf, build a foundation of peace. No more hunting from you, no more attacks from us. A new age.” She looks around the table, daring anyone to object.
“There are other places in the Four Nations, places where vampires and humans live in harmony. If Republic City, capital of the United Republic, cannot achieve the same, then it does not deserve to represent the world.”
“Careful,” Raiko growls. “That kind of talk will not be permitted, especially not in City Hall itself.”
“No,” Asami says defiantly, chin raised. She sits straight, shoulders back, a poem of revolution. “I - we’ve been careful long enough.” She looks at Korra when she says this, catching her eye for just a moment. “This endless fight between human and vampire, this back and forth war of attrition, it needs to end. We will stop feeding on you if you stop killing us and make the city divisions equal.”
Korra feels a flash of panic rising in her momentarily, hands slipping from her water bottle. She doesn’t know what to do without the fight, doesn’t know what her life is if it’s not built around hunting.
Asami’s jaw clenches as she waits for Raiko’s answer, and Korra finds her own in that moment, in the line of Asami’s mouth and the light in her eye -
She pushes it down, buries it. She’s not ready for that, not after everything that’s happened. Not when they’re still buried underneath a thousand touches lacking words, a thousand unspoken conversations waiting for conclusion.
Raiko looks to Lin, seeking her opinion. Lin stares down at the table with her eyebrows knit. Kya rests a hand on her back lightly. Korra knows the toll that this takes from Lin; she lost her sister to a vampire attack when they were just teenagers, and the wound remains fresh even years later. Some scars never heal.
“I agree with Sato,” Lin says, and there’s an edge to it, but it’s acquiescence nevertheless.
Raiko pauses for another minute, clearly waiting for another objection and not getting it. He finally scowls and pulls another paper out of his file. “Fine. Going forward, we will make peace between vampire and human in Republic City.” He gestures to the occupants of the table. “I hereby declare this group the new Council of Armistice, which will meet twice a month at least until conditions are met. I’ll draw up the terms of the peace treaty and we will discuss it at the next meeting.”
“Thank you,” Asami says, nodding slightly to Raiko. “I’m glad we could come to an agreement.”
The door to the hall opens, and a man walks in without warning. Korra turns to see Hiroshi Sato standing in front of them, and her stomach twists, remembering the last time she’d seen him. Her eyes go instinctively to Asami: half-rising from her chair, an expression of shock spreading across her face.
“Mr Sato,” Raiko says, his tone neutral. “I don’t believe you were invited to this meeting.”
“I don’t need an invitation,” Hiroshi answers. He points a finger towards Asami. “ She’s here. That’s reason enough for me to get involved.”
“Dad,” Asami says, her voice tight with emotion. “What are you doing here?”
“I heard that you were the new coven leader,” Hiroshi says tersely. “And you’re making a peace treaty with the president.”
“I am,” Asami answers. It’s not giving anything away; the announcement had been made on public television an hour before the meeting, leaving less time for public fallout.
Hiroshi stares at her, studying her, something unknowable passing over his face. Asami looks back steadily, nothing reserved.
“So you’re not like them,” Hiroshi says. “You’re not a monster, not attacking humans.”
“No,” Asami answers. “Not anymore. Once I became a vampire, all I ever wanted was peace.” There’s anger in her eyes now. “You should have figured that out for yourself first, before sending Korra to kill me.”
“I never had a problem with doing business with vampires,” Hiroshi says, almost talking to himself now. “But I didn’t want you to be one, didn’t want you to have to live that kind of half life. I wanted to save you.”
“It was the wrong way,” Asami says.
“I know that now,” Hiroshi says quietly. “It always was, Asami. I’ve never been able to do anything right with you, not after your mother died…I’ve failed you so many times, Asami, but now I want to make things right. I know that I’ve done unforgivable things. I don’t deserve another chance, but if you want to give me one, I’ll be here.” He bows his head, then walks slowly towards the door.
Asami watches him go, and there’s a heartbreaking expression on her face: she looks lost, confused, younger than her years. Korra wants to forget everything that lies between them, wants to cross that divide and wrap her arms around her, but she doesn’t; she stays where she is, wishing for the impossible.
“This meeting is adjourned,” Raiko announces. “Council dismissed.” With that, he stands and disappears into the hallway. His staff members quickly follow.
Lin leaves first, Mako and Bolin trailing after her. Zhu Li hesitates, but a nod from Asami sends her out the door and into the night.
And then it’s just the two of them.
Asami leans against the edge of the table, a quiet sigh escaping her. Korra watches her, thinks of all the things they’ve ever done together, all the moments they’ve ever shared: the coffee shop, the pool, the club, the workshop, spring and summer, fall and winter, hunting in the back streets, walking in the park, lazy days and sleepless nights, cuts and bruises and bite marks, smiles and touches shared like secrets, and through it all, Asami .
Even after everything, it’s her. It will always be her.
“I’m sorry,” Korra says, and it hurts to say, but it’s true. She doesn’t know where they go from here, but she wants the path to lead somewhere.
“I am too,” Asami answers softly. Then: “Do you think this will really work?”
“I think,” Korra says, choosing her words carefully, “that it’s a start. Whatever happens from here, it’s on all of us.”
“But we’re working together now,” Asami says. A layered conversation, veiled meanings concealed beneath the surface. Korra steps over to join her, leaning against the table, and their fingers brush for just a moment.
“Yeah,” Korra says. Asami’s smile is just the same as it always was, a gentle curve at the corner of her mouth. It’s there now, and Korra can’t look away. “Yeah, we are.”
(One night in late spring, the four of them are sent out to hunt down a vampire who attacked a family on the east side of town. It’s the first time in a couple weeks that they’ve all been on assignment together, and Bolin couldn’t be more excited about it.
“Just look at this,” he says as they walk, waving a hand in the air. “The fantastic four, out on the streets again. We could be the faces of a superhero franchise.”
“Yeah, right,” Mako snorts. “As if you could ever be a mover star.”
Bolin feigns hurt. “What, you don’t think I could handle a life in the limelight? Please. This face was destined for mover posters.” He turns to Korra and Asami, his face set in what he probably thinks is a noble expression. “What do you think? Aren’t you swept away by my heroic handsomeness?”
Korra and Asami glance at each other, amused, and then back at him. “No,” they say in unison.
Bolin huffs in annoyance, and Korra laughs along with Mako and Asami. The streets are empty and well-lit, the spring air warm around them, and it feels like they’re walking beyond time, like the years will never touch them. Korra watches Bolin wrap an arm around Asami in a sideways hug, watches Mako reach over to mess up Bolin’s hair; it’s all so familiar, so grounding.
Bolin’s hands flash in the air, telling a story now. Asami’s face glows golden under a streetlight, catching the column of light like mirrors catch reflections.
Korra thinks: I could live like this for the rest of my life.
They find the vampire easily, taking him out without any trouble and coming away without a single scratch between them. A piece of Bolin’s hair gets cut off in the fight, but that’s the closest thing to damage; as they walk, they can’t help but laugh at him.
“Stop laughing,” he grumbles, trying to brush his remaining hair over to cover the gap. “How am I supposed to look like a heartthrob now?”
“Hate to break it to you, buddy,” Mako says, clapping him on the shoulder, “but you were never a heartthrob.”
It’s the early hours of the morning now, that rare time between waking and sleeping when Republic City seems to breathe more quietly. There’s no other pedestrians in sight, and barely any traffic. It feels like the entire city belongs to them.
“I’m hungry,” Bolin says now, glancing around the street. “You think the diner is open yet? I’m craving waffles.”
“Bo, it’s five in the morning,” Korra says. “Nothing’s open until at least six.”
Bolin heaves a great sigh. “Well then, let’s go home and go to bed. I need my beauty sleep.”
“Trust me,” Korra teases him. “No amount of sleep is going to make you beautiful.”
“Hey, rude. ”
“Guys,” Asami says, pointing to the left. “Look.”
They’re at the edge of the city now, near one of the sloping foothills by the waterfront. Korra looks out over the bay, where there’s a glow of orange and pink light starting to rise at the seam of the sky and the water, brushing against the horizon.
“Oh, hey,” Bolin says, following her gaze. “That’s pretty.”
“Unlike you,” Mako quips, and then ducks out of the way as Bolin swats at him.
The four of them climb the hill, sitting down in the grass and leaning against each other as they stare across the water at the streaks of color painting across the bottom of the sky. The sun rises slowly among the pastel clouds, light spilling across the bay and falling across the city streets.
“It’s so peaceful like this,” Asami says. “It makes me forget, for a minute.”
“Forget what?” Mako asks.
Asami shrugs. “All the bad things in the world, I guess. Something like this...it makes everything seem so inconsequential, you know? Like if something this pretty can exist in the world, you can ignore all the ugly parts for just a moment.”
“Yeah,” Mako says.
“Yeah,” Bolin echoes.
They sit quietly for another few minutes. Korra leans into Asami, rests her head against her shoulder. Their hands find each other in the dewy grass, fingers weaving together.
“So you like the sunrise?” Korra asks quietly, and Asami nods.
“It’s like a new beginning,” she answers. “Like something’s going to change. Like everything’s going to change.”
“Not everything,” Korra says. They’re still holding hands, and she squeezes Asami’s fingers gently; Asami squeezes back, a conversation without words.
Asami sighs in happiness, tips her head back to stare up at the sky. “It’s a lovely view.”
“It is,” Korra agrees, her eyes lingering on Asami’s profile.)
The Council meets several times over the next few weeks, working out the terms of the peace treaty. The fights stop, the damage is repaired; curfew ends, and the hunters are no longer called out on patrol. The city settles slowly into a state of calm.
It’s hard to adjust to until it’s not. Korra thought she would miss hunting more, but she doesn't; somewhere along the line, she’s become tired of conflict. She’s had enough violence for a lifetime.
Instead, she finds other ways to fill the time. She eats breakfasts and dinners with Bolin and Mako, trading off between their two apartments. She helps Lin draft more legislation for relations between them and the coven. She goes for runs around the city, covering the streets the way she used to during patrol. It’s new and unfamiliar, but it’s good.
And there’s one more thing: Asami comes back into her life, slowly but surely.
They see each other at the Council meetings twice a week, and it goes the same every time; they sit and talk and take notes, but they’re not doing that all; they’re not doing anything but watching each other. Korra catalogues Asami’s movements, keeps careful track of her in every crowded room without even trying, and knows that Asami’s doing exactly the same.
It’s only the meetings at first, but then it becomes more.
The four of them start going to Fan’s on Friday nights again. They sit in the same corner booth and order dumplings like they always used to, and it’s almost as if nothing ever changed, except that everything’s changed.
Bolin does most of the talking, his words the glue that hold the evenings together. Mako remains silent aside from a comment here and there. Asami talks quietly, searching for topics that steer around her turning and her life as coven leader. They avoid the difficult things, at least for now.
Friday night dinners turn into Saturday morning breakfasts and Wednesday afternoon hangouts as Asami slowly reclaims her spot in their lives.They fall back into old routines: dinners together, arcade nights, sunsets on their apartment balconies. Asami’s return fills the space that her death had left behind; she balances them, makes them whole again.
It’s like a wound, Korra thinks: it’s healing slowly, but definitely.
Korra finds herself moving past her anger, past their history over the last few months; she hasn’t forgotten, but she’s forgiven. Asami smiles at her over breakfast, and Korra forgets that she’s a vampire now. All she sees is the woman she’s loved since the day they met.
Asami is back , and it leaves Korra breathless. She can’t ignore how she feels, can’t forget what they’ve done. Asami leans across her kitchen table, and Korra remembers biting her lower lip. Asami leans back on the sofa, and Korra remembers pushing her back against the mattress. There’s a conversation they need to have, but they dance around it endlessly, and every word they exchange is a meaningless one.
“Thanks for inviting me tonight,” Asami says one evening, pausing in the doorway of Korra’s apartment after dinner, and it sounds like I love you.
“You’re welcome,” Korra answers, and it sounds like I love you too. She has more to say, so much more, words and sentences and sonnets, speeches filling her mouth like water -
She doesn’t say it.
Asami nods, and then she’s gone, and Korra is left standing alone.
“This can’t go on,” Mako tells her. “You need to talk to her, and you know it.”
“I can’t,” Korra answers. “I’m too afraid of ruining us.” Even talking about it makes her ache with fear, a dull panic that sinks into her bones. Losing Asami the first time was like being drowned; Korra can’t afford to let it happen again.
“You’ve been afraid for two years,” Mako says. He catches her eye, his expression gentle. “Aren’t you tired of it?”
“Yes,” Korra admits quietly.
Mako crosses the room and hugs her, and then crosses to the door. “If you think that one conversation is enough to break you and her,” he says, one hand braced against the frame, “then you don’t know yourselves at all.”
The door swings shut behind him. Korra sits down on the sofa and shuts her eyes tightly, her thoughts spiraling.
There’s a knock at the door, and Korra yells “Come in,” thinking that Mako forgot something.
“Hi,” a voice says, and Korra’s eyes fly open; it’s not Mako’s voice. “Can we talk?”
Asami’s standing by the door, her face open and honest, and Korra’s heart leaps from her chest, balances in her throat. She’s been dreading this moment for weeks now. She wants to say no . She wants to say please don’t make us ruin this.
“Sure,” she says, and it feels like a death sentence.
Asami sits next to her, leaving a wide space between them. Korra wants to close it, doesn’t know how.
“I’m sorry,” Asami says. “For everything. I know I’ve said it already, but I really am. There’s so many things I wish I’d done differently, and so many things I wish I could change.”
“I am too,” Korra says. “You’re forgiven, and so am I. What’s past is past.”
This is where they should end, where they should stop; it’s the point where all their conversations over the last few weeks have ended, on the precipice of something unspeakable. They should stop here, while they still have a chance.
Instead, Asami inhales deeply and keeps going. She’s always been the braver of them when it mattered most.
“What’s past is past,” she repeats. “Does that include what happened between us?”
Korra knew it was coming, but it still hits her like a blow; she fumbles for words, for breath, finds both of them beyond her.
“I don’t want that to be in the past,” Asami says, so quietly that it’s a whisper. “I want you , Korra. I understand if you don’t want this, but I had to tell you anyway.”
Korra still can't reply. She can’t believe what she’s hearing, can’t believe she might really be able to have this.
The silence stretches on too long, and Asami nods. Her expression slips to hurt and disappointment, and Korra half wants to let her leave, half wants to stay where it’s safe, but she’s so tired of not saying what she means -
“I want you too,” Korra says, and the fall is nothing; it’s motion, it’s flight. “Asami, I love you.”
Asami’s eyes go wide in wonder, and then she’s leaning forward and pressing her lips to Korra’s, and words are no longer necessary. Korra pulls her closer, and it’s finally the moment, finally ; Asami licks into her mouth like she’s been waiting centuries for this, and life and death are nothing but words to her.
“Take me to bed,” Asami murmurs, and Korra does.
“I loved you for so long,” Asami says later that night, when they’re lying in bed. “I thought you would never love me back.”
Korra rolls onto her side until they’re facing each other. They’re in the dark, but it’s nothing like before; the night seems golden around them, and Asami shines brighter than the moon. Korra looks at her and feels something unfolding in her chest; aching, blooming, reaching for forever.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” she asks.
“Oh, Korra,” Asami says, smiling at her helplessly. “You have no idea how hard I tried.”
(“Hey,” Korra says, sliding into the corner booth at Fan’s. “Sorry I’m late. I was napping.”
Asami flips her menu closed. “Shocker,” she laughs. “I ordered you your favorite.” She gestures to a cup sitting by Korra’s place - jasmine iced tea.
“Thanks,” Korra says, taking a sip. “Where’s Mako and Bolin?”
Asami shrugs. “Mako cancelled. He called me just after I got here, said he and Bolin couldn’t make it.”
Korra smirks against the rim of her glass, half amused, half annoyed. She knows exactly what Mako’s doing - she can tell that he planned this from the moment they’d all agreed to do a fancy dress night for dinner. She isn’t sure whether she wants to punch him or thank him.
She’s gotten dinner alone with Asami a thousand times before, but it’s different tonight. Asami’s wearing a maroon slip with black tights and heels and a thin pearl necklace hanging from her neck, and her mouth is painted a deep burgundy that perfectly matches her dress. She looks like a vision from Korra’s wildest dreams, hovering on the border between the seductive and the familiar.
Korra swallows, suddenly conscious of the air surrounding them. It sticks to her lungs, clings in her mouth; she can’t quite remember how to exhale. She pulls at her tie distractedly, just for something to do with her hands; it comes undone in her hands.
“Shit,” she mumbles, trying to re-tie it.
“No, leave it,” Asami says. She leans across the table, pulls the strip of fabric from Korra’s hand and lets it drop. “It looks better this way. You look amazing.”
Korra finds her breath, lets out a sigh of relief. She’d gone for a classic and simple look tonight: black blazer, blue dress shirt, bow tie now hanging loose around her neck. Knowing that Asami likes it makes Korra’s heart beat out of her chest, racing towards explosion.
“You do too,” Korra says. “I mean - wow .” It’s an understatement, but she’s never been good with words when it comes to Asami. Trying to describe her is like trying to describe the sun.
Asami’s mouth quirks at the corner, and Korra can tell that she understands.
They order dumplings and fried rice and seaweed salad and let their conversation wander like a flowing river, dipping from Asami’s business class assignments to Korra’s new part-time job at the community pool to the new mover that’s coming out next week. They’re talking about nothing really, but it feels like everything; it always feels like everything when it’s with Asami.
Asami leans forward, now elbows braced against the table, telling a story about a dog she met in the park earlier that day, and Korra can’t stop watching her. The light catches in Asami’s hair, shines against the brilliant green of her eyes, spreads itself across her bare shoulders like it wants to live against her skin. Korra can’t help but wish the same.
Before she can talk herself out of it, she reaches across and rests her hand on top of Asami’s. Their fingers tangle together, interlaced against the warm grain of the table, and they’ve been here before - they’ve held hands hundreds, thousands of times in the past - but tonight, it doesn’t feel the same. It feels like they’re standing on the edge of something vast, a few breaths from falling, but without the sensation of danger; it’s more like gravity loosening its hold, letting them free.
“Do you want dessert?” Asami asks once their dinner plates are cleared, and Korra smirks.
“Do you even have to ask?”
Asami gets a plate of cherry blossom mochi and Korra gets a slice of chocolate lava cake, and they trade back and forth, talking about other things now: flowers and oceans, stars and space, the endless possibilities of the summer to come. They talk until they reach a place where words are no longer necessary; they’re content just to be in each other’s presence.
The soft light of the restaurant falls around them, gathers them in. There are other customers around, but they barely register, fading to the edge of Korra’s awareness like dim stars in the night. Asami smoothes one hand through her hair, a smile still hovering at the corner of her lips, and Korra thinks she’d be happy to live in this moment forever.
“I’m glad we’re here,” Asami says at last, setting down her fork. “I had a kind of shitty day, but this more than made up for it.”
“Oh?” Korra asks, sliding the last bit of cake over to her. “What happened?”
“My dad, again,” Asami sighs. “He argued with me like usual, said I should be focusing more on my studies, told me I needed to work harder if I ever want a successful career. I finally couldn’t take it anymore and I told him that I don’t want to inherit the company, and he called me useless and stupid, and now we’re not speaking.” She stirs the straw around her glass of tea. “He also told me not to come home tonight. I didn’t bother saying that I wasn’t sure I wanted to come home at all.”
“That’s stupid,” Korra says, shaking her head. “Forget what he said, Asami. You’re the smartest person I’ve ever met, and you’re - ” She waves a hand to try and convey what she’s feeling. Amazing. Incredible. Pure magic. Nothing she says seems to cover it.
“Thanks, Korra,” Asami says, and she’s so beautiful in the light, so perfect; Korra looks at her and thinks being with you is like coming home again and again, and the words fall out before she can stop them.
“You could move in with me.”
Asami stares. “What?”
“Oh,” Korra says, realizing what she’s said, wondering how she can possibly play this off. “I just thought - since you said you didn’t want to go home - you could stay with me. For a night. Or a little while. As long as you want, basically, I mean obviously only as long as you feel like - ”
“Korra,” Asami says. “I’d love to move in with you. If you’re sure you can put up with me, I’ll stay for as long as you want me.”
I’ll always want you, Korra thinks.
“You won’t regret this,” she says. “I’m a great roommate. Just ask Mako and Bolin.” It’s obviously a joke. Asami’s heard many tales of Korra’s living habits by now, knows the story of the alarm clock incident as well as any of them, but she’s not laughing now - just smiling. “You’re going to learn to love me.”
“I’m sure that won’t be hard,” Asami answers. “After all, I already do.”
There’s another joke here, something she’s missing. Korra searches for it, can’t quite find it; can’t take Asami’s words at face value, knows she’ll never be that lucky.
“Obviously,” she says, smirking. “I’m just that lovable.”
She reaches for the bill, misses the brief flicker of disappointment in Asami’s eyes.)
“Apparently there was another vampire-human street fight last night,” Korra says as she enters their bedroom, taking her boots off and dropping them to the floor. “No casualties, just injuries. I’m starting to think we should do something about that. We could start a fighting gym, for ex-hunters and vampires alike, somewhere they can beat on each other in a nonlethal way.”
On the bed, Asami puts down her book. She’s in Korra’s shirt and a pair of reading glasses, and Korra’s heart melts at the sight. “That’s not a bad idea. What do you think you’d call it?”
“Roll With The Punches,” Korra suggests. “Or just Fight Club. That’s classic.”
“Lame,” Asami says. “I’d go with something like Work It Out . Double meanings, you know?”
Korra rolls her eyes, climbing onto the bed. Asami laughs, and her fangs slip over the edge of her lip, catching the light.
“Show me those again,” Korra says, curling into Asami’s side.
Asami sighs fondly, opens her mouth. Korra reaches out a finger and traces the sharp edge of one of her fangs. She listens to Asami’s breaths, watches the curve of her lips, and feels happiness rising in her, warm and steady. It’s the kind of moment she’s been having more and more lately; she looks at Asami and wishes for a year, a century, a lifetime.
“Asami,” she says slowly.
“I know we haven’t talked about this much, but…” Korra pauses.
Asami leans back against the pillow, into the gold of the sunlight spilling through the open window, and Korra stares at her for a moment, letting it all sink in. Their bed is a field that’s never seen battle, and flowers bloom under the gentle weight of their bodies. If it isn’t quite paradise, it’s close enough; if it isn’t quite heaven, it’s still theirs.
“You’re immortal,” Korra says finally. “You’ll get old. I won’t.”
“I won’t leave you,” Asami answers softly. “Is that what you’re worried about? I’m not going to leave you, Korra. Not ever.”
“I know you wouldn’t,” Korra says. “That’s not what I meant. I’ve been thinking...I want you to turn me.”
Asami stares at her, wide-eyed. “You want me to...”
“Yes,” Korra says, and she had her doubts at first, but looking at Asami now, she’s never been so sure of anything in her life; she wants to be with Asami now, later, until forever is no longer a measure of time but a measure of their love. “I don’t want to live without you ever again.”
Asami’s eyes shine with happiness, green flashing in the sun, and Korra thinks of springtime. She thinks: this, this.
“Are you sure?” Asami asks. “It’s a big choice.”
Korra leans forward and places a kiss on Asami’s forehead, slow and sweet. She presses her fingers to the underside of Asami’s wrist, thinking of eternity.
“My choice is you,” Korra says. “It’s always going to be you.”
(“I still can’t believe we’re doing this,” Asami says with a laugh. They’re sitting on Korra’s sofa, surrounded by boxes of Asami’s things. They’re not done unpacking yet, but Asami’s already got a couple blankets draped over the chairs, and her favorite mugs are mixing with Korra’s in the cupboard. The apartment is becoming something new, more theirs than hers, and Korra loves it.
“God, I know,” she says now, filling a glass with wine and passing it to Asami. “Moving in together...next thing you know, we’ll be getting married.” She rests one hand against Asami’s thigh, taps her fingers gently. “I will warn you - I’ve always planned on wearing a t-shirt and jeans to my wedding, so if that’s going to put you off, you’d better get a refund on the engagement ring right now.”
Asami laughs, takes a sip of wine. She’s loose and bright-eyed tonight, relaxed in a way that makes Korra think of sunlight on the grass, waves against the shore. She leans into Korra, their shoulders pressing together, and reaches for the TV remote.
“You’re ridiculous,” Asami answers. “Lucky for you, I was going to wear workshop overalls to mine. We’ll make a perfect pair.”
They flip through the channels, the sound muted in the background, the breeze flowing in through the open door of the balcony. Outside, the city murmurs quietly; there’s the rush of traffic, the occasional sound of a siren. Korra rests her head against Asami, breathes in: jasmine, vanilla. It feels like she’s inhaling the future itself.
“You’ll be happy here, right?” she asks. “You can move back in with your dad or get your own place whenever you want, you know. I won’t be mad if you ever get sick of me.”
“I’ll never get sick of you,” Asami says, soft against Korra’s ear. “I’ll stay with you until the end of time, or at least until the end of our lives.” The words come out lightly, but bearing the substance of promise.
“You’re sure?” Korra asks. “It’s a big choice.”
The corner of Asami’s mouth curls wide with happiness, and the curve of her smile wraps around Korra’s heart, fastens like a ribbon tying its ends together. Here, Korra thinks, here and here; it’s as if a single thread of gold shimmers into existence, weaving itself into the space between them. It’s soft and delicate, but something about it feels beautifully permanent.
“My choice is you,” Asami says. “It’s always going to be you.”)