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Criminal Attraction

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Just like how she practiced, Asami tells herself as she strips one of the thick cables that lead to the power plant. Half of the city is experiencing an illegally induced blackout, but it’s no thing. She would be feeling worse about this if the hospitals and any other necessary institutions didn’t have their own generators; Asami is just ruining the evening of everyone in Republic City and she would lie if she claimed not to get some sort of twisted satisfaction from it.

Not because she’s a criminal—Asami has her reasons for that—but because being a model student, daughter and citizen leaves some wicked part of her repressed. Once she gets rid of the insulation, Asami gets a small saw from her backpack and starts cutting the cable. A glance at her watch tells her she has a little less than five minutes to complete the task. After that, the plant will come back online and her window for safely cutting this cable is closed. Asami starts cutting a little faster—the idea of getting electrocuted when she’s still sawing after her time is up is not exactly a nice outlook.

Fortunately, the threads making up the thick cable succumb quickly beneath the iron teeth and Asami gets the job done with an entire minute to spare. She’s just finishing up putting all her stuff back in the bag when the lights around her turn back on and she hears someone approach her through the tall grass.

“Done already?” Asami starts. “That’s good. The faster we wrap this up, the—” The person watching her sitting in the grass is not who she expected to see. Instead of the sharp mask with the red dot on the forehead, it’s a girl with a black mask around her eyes, who looks a dangerous amount like the self-proclaimed savior of the city. “…Raava,” Asami guesses as her eyes linger on the tight, sleeveless shirt, before trailing down and noting the traditional water tribe shades of blue that characterize her outfit.

“Hi,” the girl greets her, arms crossed and grinning. “I see you know me already.” Asami stands up, noticing a slight height difference when she does so.

“I mean, yeah,” she answers, slapping the dirt off her all-black getup and nonchalantly swinging her backpack over her shoulder. “Everyone knows who you are.” Briefly, she wonders if she shouldn’t also have opted for a mask.

“Then you should also know why I’m here,” Raava counters. Asami grimaces.

“You’re here to arrest me. You’re here to chase after me when I eventually get away.” That does something to the hero, whose cocky grin widens as she assumes a fighting stance.

“I’d like to see you try,” she says. There is a fire in her blue eyes, encased by the mask but not invisible, that’s not just hostile but a little inquisitive as well and Asami shrugs, dropping the bag.

“Sure.” She could actually use the practice. The harsh lights from the power plant shine down on them as Asami spreads her arms, opening her hands and letting the electricity crackle between her palms. Raava’s eyes widen when she sees her power, like she hadn’t expected her to have powers. Asami writes it off to the fact that this is her first real act as a super criminal and the hero just doesn’t know her yet. She closes her fists again and crosses her arms, mirroring Raava’s stance just a second ago. “Come on then.” Raava’s grin disappears and she pounces.

Asami ducks to dodge a bright flash of fire, before jumping up a fraction of a second before the earth below her feet crumbles and turns into quicksand. While in the air, she directs a powerful electrical surge at the hero, who blocks by slamming her fists into the grass and creating an earth wall. With a grimace, Asami lands in front of it, immediately turning her momentum into a roll to the side of the wall. She reaches out, aiming to grab the hero’s calf, but Raava is fast, too. She must’ve realized by now that Asami’s power works best through direct contact and blasts her away with a powerful gust of wind before Asami can even attempt to touch her.

The tall grass makes for a somewhat soft landing as Asami tumbles through it, grunting as her back catches most of the fall. With her face set in a grimace, she stands back up and watches Raava carefully. The hero seems to do the same, so Asami simply starts walking back towards her, clenching her jaw and internally cursing her power’s disadvantage in long range fighting.

With her hands balled into fists, ready to attack, Asami approaches, but when she has almost closed the distance she notices Raava hasn’t been doing nothing; her hands are subtly manipulating a big bubble of water. She drags her eyes away from that miracle of nature and up into the hero’s bright blue eyes. The determination in them speaks volumes—this is going to be a battle of speed. Asami doesn’t hesitate and extends her arms, throwing her full power in the electric blast. Raava does the same, bending the water forward, probably with the aim of encasing her arm with it.

It would’ve worked, too—but then Asami’s electricity comes into contact with the water and travels through it with lightspeed, hitting Raava and sending her crashing to the ground with a grunt. Asami grimaces at seeing the hero twitch slightly in the grass.

“I’m sorry about this,” she says as she crouches down next to her and turns her on her back, making her a little more comfortable. “I swear I never do this, normally.” Raava grunts, obviously wanting to say something back, but the electricity that’s causing her paralysis also has the muscles in her jaw clenched shut. Helpless isn’t a good look for her, but Asami pushes any feeling of pity far, far away. “Alright, I’m off,” she sighs as she grabs her backpack and puts it back on her shoulder. She sees Raava staring at her in her peripheral vision and turns back to her, one last time, smiling weakly. “It was really nice meeting you.”

***

A light drizzle taps against the window overlooking the street, the rain tracking slow paths down the glass. Korra watches them go; drops sliding down, either joining other paths or forging their own. The tapping of the rain goes accompanied by the murmur of the newscaster on the small tv that hangs in a corner above the bar. With a sigh, Korra turns towards it.

“Could you turn that up, Bolin?” Her best friend and right hand in running this place pops up above the bar and gives her a blinding smile.

“Sure thing boss!” he says, rummaging through the junk drawer and fishing out the remote. The newscaster’s voice starts overpowering the rain and Korra takes a seat at the bar, crossing her arms on the gleamy, dark wood and staring up at the screen. They’re showing images of one of the main power plants that powers the city, located upstream, where the water flows down from the mountains in the north.

“This is the suspected scene of the crime that resulted in the city-wide blackout last night,” the newscaster says, speaking in a practiced staccato. “Although the police and other aiding agencies were able to get the power back up for the majority of the city, one of the central power cables of this facility was cut during the power outage, leading the detectives on the case to suspect the blackout was manually induced, rather than sheer coincidence.” Korra stares at the images of Mako at the crime scene, looking all stern and official as he holds the camera crew at a distance.

“Quite the event last night, huh?” Bolin says as he taps her a beer. It’s past noon, meaning it’s allowed according to the unofficial rules Korra maintains in her bar, daftly called ‘Spirits’. She takes a sip of the beer, licking the foam off her lips and smiling at Bolin as thanks.

“Tell me about it,” she says. “I was so sure Amon was the one behind all this, but…”

“It wasn’t?” Bolin asks.

“It was someone new,” Korra replies, eyes drifting off from the tv as she focuses on the memory of last night. The girl had to be around her age. She was fast, and her features were almost as stunning as her electrical powers. Sharp green eyes, the hair in her ponytail as black as the clothes she’d been wearing. She was beautiful, or at least way too pretty to be doing something as highly dangerous and illegal as cutting a cable of a power plant in a temporary blackout. “I’m not sure cutting the cable was her own plan, though. Seems too risky to pull off alone, especially as a newbie. Maybe Amon was involved, after all.”

“Or maybe she’s just very ambitious,” Bolin counters. “I would understand—new, hot shot criminal on the scene, young and talented, just aching to make a name for themselves.” Korra considers it, but then she remembers the nonchalant, almost apathetic way the girl had talked to her and treated their fight. There had been no anger, no ultimate finishing move after she managed to get Korra on the ground and incapacitated.

Instead, she just said sorry and left. “I don’t think so,” Korra says, swirling around the beer in her glass. “She really had me, you know? Could’ve finished the great Raava, or at least made her go through a world of hurt. But she didn’t—she just left.” She looks at Bolin and sees he doesn’t have a satisfying answer for her, either.

“Well, I hope she doesn’t get that chance again,” he says. “Besides, you’re so powerful. Cheer up will you, we have power again and the city is saved! You’ll get her next time.” Korra raises an eyebrow.

“And what if this was just a one-time thing?”

“Korra,” Bolin chastises her, shaking his head knowingly like a bartender ought to. “You and I both know it’s never a one-time thing.”

“We’ll see,” Korra says, brooding. Bolin has a point. Most of the time, whether it’s the thrill of the chase or the fast money, criminals easily end up repeating their mistakes. But this girl seemed different—if only because Korra had caught the last whispers of a conversation she’d had with someone over the phone as she left her behind in the tall grass.

“You’re fine,” she had said, voice all calm and soothing, clear in the silence of the night even though she had stood a ways away. “You’re amazing and if he doesn’t see that, he’s not worth it.” A short silence had fallen as she just listened to the voice on the other side, inaudible for Korra, and slipped on the second strap of her black backpack. “That’s—yeah, exactly. I—” Another pause, then a throaty laugh that escaped from the girl’s lips, with all the capacity to turn Korra’s legs to jelly if the muscles in them hadn’t already been wound tight by the electrical surge from before. “You know I trust you, right? More than I do myself, probably.” Korra hadn’t been able to do much more than watch how the girl tangled her fingers in her ponytail absentmindedly. “Yeah, see you at home. Love you,” was the last thing she said, before disappearing into the night.

Maybe Korra is reading into this too much. She has a tendency to overthink things sometimes—ever since coming home last night, her gut has been telling her that this girl is not just a common criminal. She seems too normal to be one, yet Korra had still caught her in the act of cutting that cable. Maybe she’s the exception to the rule and this was both the first and last time Raava confronted her. Or, Korra realizes with a slight amount of dread, maybe the girl’s friendly demeanor is nothing but a ploy, her apathetic nature nothing but a tactic to get Korra to lower her guard. On the tv screen above her, a weatherman goes on about the seemingly never ending rain and shortly after that the doorbell rings, signifying the first customer of the day. So Korra shrugs off her worries, finishes her beer, clears away the empty glass and forgets all about her nightly encounter for the day.

***

“It is in this way that classical electrodynamics categorizes the electric potential and electric current that make up what we would call electric fields. This concludes our lecture for today…” Thank the spirits, Asami nearly mutters. It’s been a good three hours without coffee and she’s starting to crash. “I expect you to study this week’s theory closely, and Faraday’s law and Maxwell’s equations as well. Until next week.” With that, the lecturer steps away from the lecturer desk and returns to his laptop, closing it as the first students with additional questions start flocking around him.

Asami packs up her notebook as well, checking her watch and shrugging on her coat. It’s still early in the afternoon and she has the rest of the day off. Of course there are always articles to read and projects to work on, still Asami briefly toys with the idea of taking it easy for the day. With her black backpack hanging off one shoulder she makes her way to the door; the steady stream of students is slow, however, and she can’t avoid the hand that falls on her shoulder.

“Asami,” Dr. Noatak says, softly, momentarily ignoring a girl who’s glancing from him to her notes and back again, looking a bit lost. “We missed each other on our way out, two days ago.” His smile creeps higher, turning conspiratorial. “Stellar work. Good job.” Asami smiles back awkwardly.

“Sure, my pleasure.” Then another student cuts in, asking a question about inverse proportionality and Asami uses the moment to make a beeline for the exit. “Anything for the extra credit,” she mutters as she takes out her phone on her way out of the building, considering the name at the very top of her recent calls list.

Opal is the perfect person to kill some time with. She’s kind, bubbly, always has a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. And she always has time to talk—it’s amazing how the little used bookstore Opal works at hasn’t gone out of business yet, with how quiet it consistently is.

“Here you go,” Asami greets her as she walks up to the counter, two cups of coffee in hand.

“Ooh, what did I do to deserve this?” Opal asks with smile and a sparkle in her eye. “And also; I thought they were burying you alive under loads of work now that your doctorate assessment is coming up.”

“Ah, don’t remind me,” Asami groans, running a hand through her hair as she leans back against the counter. “I’m taking today off. These extracurriculars the doctorate commission has got me doing are killing.”

“I bet you wish you had spent a little more time studying for that civil engineering exam last year and a little less time having fun with that detective of yours, huh?” Opal’s grin widens as she notices the slight shudder that runs down Asami’s spine at the mention of her ex.

“Spirits. Let’s not get into that whole mess right now,” she says, smiling back. “You’re right, though. Really, Mako did always have the worst sense of timing.” Opal snorts.

“That’s an understatement. I’m telling you, if I ever meet the guy…”

“Not that I don’t appreciate the sentiment—I’d love seeing Mako get his ass handed to him by someone half his size—defending me from him isn’t necessary, Opal,” Asami tells her. “I moved on a long time ago.” She takes another sip from her latte. “Just kind of sucks I have all these extra credit projects to deal with now.”

“Well, I guess at least you’re learning a lot,” Opal says, wearing a gentle smile. “No time wasted, right?” Asami loves her for her optimism, but it’s just a little ironic when she remembers the night of her first venture into criminality. That had certainly been a learning experience.

“Right.” In some sort of cosmic joke from the universe, her phone rings the second the word leaves her mouth. “Uh, hi, this is Asami?” she mutters as she picks it up.

“Asami, this is P’Li,” an authoritative voice crackles in her ear. “I know this is short notice, but your extra assignment for my course starts tonight. I expect to see you at the rendezvous, as per our arrangement. Goodbye.” Asami doesn’t even have a chance to reply before the call disconnects.

“Okay, I actually might take you up on your offer,” she mutters as she puts her phone down and looks at her friend, leaning her head on her hand. Opal’s smile has turned soft and sympathetic. “My one free day and they take it.”

“Another project for extra credit?” she asks. “Can they even ask that of you, legally? I mean you already finished your thesis, didn’t you?”

“I did,” Asami sighs, before finishing her coffee. “But I need to meet the total credit requirement. And honestly, I don’t think my teachers care much about what they can or can’t do, legally.” With a sigh, she stands up and grabs her backpack. “I’m sorry, it was really nice catching up with you—but I should go if I want to prepare everything on time.” Opal nods and comes out from behind the register to envelop Asami in a tight hug.

“You’re going to nail it,” she mutters into Asami’s shoulder. “I know you are.” With an encouraging smile, Opal steps back again and Asami feels better about this whole thing, already. “Besides, I know something fun we could do when you’re done.”

“Like what?” Asami asks, raising an eyebrow. Opal’s cheeks grow a shade darker as she grins.

“Okay, so what you need to know is that I’ve been seeing this boy, and—”

“What?” Asami exclaims. “Wait, is this the same boy you called me about the other night? Opal—” Opal just giggles as she grabs her by the hand and leads her through the maze of bookcases, back to the door.

“Go ace your project first, almost-doctor Sato,” she grins, as she opens the door. “I’ll introduce you to him when you’re done.”

“You know it’s criminal, dropping this bomb on me right when I have to leave,” Asami tells her as she playfully pushes against Opal’s shoulder.

“Better watch out, then,” her friend laughs. “Criminal teachers, criminal friends… Must be a matter of time before we turn you into one, as well.”

***

It’s not unusual for her to get to get a call from Chief Beifong every once in a while, with information on someone Korra’s crossed paths with before, or with a lead the police can’t afford to chase down themselves. Korra even has a separate cell phone for it, one she keeps in the back room of the bar and only takes outside with her when she’s doing her… ‘Nighttime activities’.

“What’s up, Lin?” Korra says as she answers the incoming call.

“I told you not to call me that,” the chief grumbles from the other side. “Alright kid, listen up. There have been multiple reports of suspicious activity in the vicinity of the old harbor. I need you to go check it out.”

“‘Please, Korra, would you be so kind to help out my struggling police department?’ Sure thing chief, let me get right on that,” Korra replies, grinning. She can almost hear Beifong’s mouth twist into a grimace over the rowdy conversations in the bar. “So is that it? Anything else I should know?”

“Just that the officer who went to check it before you out got tasered,” she answers. “Nothing you shouldn’t be able to handle, right?”

“Right. Thanks,” Korra sighs, before hanging up. If her gut feeling is right, which it usually is, Korra knows exactly who she’s looking for tonight. She slips the phone in her pocket.

“Duty called?” Bolin asks her in passing.

“More like duty demanded,” Korra answers. She takes someone’s order and moves to tap a beer. “I have to leave early tonight. You think you can handle running the bar on your own?”

“Of course. Will I see you before closing?”

“I think so,” Korra says as she places the beer on the bar, pocketing the phone and making her way to the back. “This shouldn’t take too long.”

Changing into her Raava outfit is something Korra doesn’t even have to think about anymore—it’s a pair of baggy, navy colored pants and a blue sleeveless top that shows off her biceps—she slips it on like a second skin, leaving the mask for last, and then she’s off.

The old harbor district lays abandoned in the dark. The streetlights here haven’t come on in a decade or two, and the fence that closes the main road that runs through it off from the rest of the city has grown rusty over the years. There is nothing but weeds, dark water and abandoned warehouses. The perfect place for nefarious criminal activities, Korra thinks.

A breeze carries her over the fence and higher up, to the roof of a brown storehouse. From there, Korra lets her eyes glide over the industrial area, dimly lit by the shimmering lights of the city, across the bay. Nothing seems out of the ordinary. Korra starts walking on the roof, further into the old harbor.

Silence and salt air is all there is. After sitting on the ledge for half an hour and after Korra almost decides to go back, a brief flash of light near the waterside catches her eye. Quietly, Korra drops down to the street, hiding herself behind the corner of the building, and watches.

Long black hair pulled up into a ponytail, a dark get-up and, most notably, sparks of electrical current that light up the darkness as she uses her power to start the engine of an old patrol boat. The engine growls menacingly in the quiet as Korra approaches, sticking to the shadow of the building. It’s the same girl from before—obviously not a one-time thing, then. Korra realizes that if she doesn’t interfere, the girl will leave, taking spirits-know-what in the backpack that’s on her back.

“Hey, you! Stop,” Korra says as she abandons her cover and walks to the boat. The girl swivels around immediately, eyes wide in surprise. “Remember me?” Korra can’t help but say, smugly.

“Of course,” the girl counters. “I left you incapacitated in the grass. Raava, was it?” Korra bites the inside of her cheek out of frustration.

“Don’t act like you don’t remember me when you do,” she says. “What were you doing here tonight?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” the girl grins. She goes on loosening the knots in the line that keep the boat tethered to the shore as if nothing’s wrong, as if Korra is just going to let her go in a minute.

“Tell me,” Korra starts. “Or—don’t. But at least tell me why you broke the law the other day when it didn’t seem like you really wanted to.” The girl pauses.

“Who says I didn’t want to?” Korra shrugs.

“Just a feeling. You can still give it up, you know,” she mutters, softly. The engine, rusted as it probably is, sputters to a halt and the only sound that remains is the dark water lapping against the quay.

“I know,” the girl says, looking at the rope in her hands. Korra crouches down and sits on the edge of the dock, feet dangling above the water.

“There is good in you. I can feel it.”

“I think all that’s in me right now is ramen, red bull and spite,” the girl answers with a grimace, as she looks up and meets Korra’s gaze with her bright green eyes. “Look, I appreciate you going through the trouble of saying all that to me. You’re a good person…” She falls silent.

“…But you’re not?” Korra finishes, tentatively.

“I am,” the girl replies. She pulls on the rope and it comes loose from the bollard. Immediately, even without the engine, the boat starts drifting off. “Just not right now.” Korra doesn’t hesitate and pushes away from the stone, landing on the back of the boat, next to the engine. She’s not ready for their conversation to end just yet.

“Why not?” The girl frowns.

“I’m sorry, Raava,” she says as she rubs her hands together, creating electricity, and reaching forward. Korra jumps backwards to avoid the surge and as she flips through the air, she sees the hand come into contact with the engine, and she realizes she’d misread her. With a splash, Korra is submerged in the water of the harbor. When she rises above the surface again, the boat has already disappeared into the darkness.

“Great,” Korra mutters, tilting her head back and allowing the cold water to take control of her hair, letting the waves carry her for just a minute before she makes her way back to the bar, disappointed, cold and soaked to the bone.

***

It’s not that she doesn’t feel bad for making the hero go for a midnight dive in the dirty water of the harbor, but Asami is really glad she’d been able to flee last night. P’li is the most strict out of all of her teachers and she’d have skinned her alive if Asami had not brought the ceramic uranium oxide, as according to plan.

They’re little fuel pallets that are supposed to go in nuclear reactors, she remembers. They’re enriched, have a high density and a melting point of 2800°C. They’re small black metal cubes, reminiscent of bullets without cartridges, and they make a chiming sound as the bag jostles on Asami’s shoulder.

A harsh wind whips against her as Asami sets foot on the roof of the Blackstone building, one of the tall skyscrapers that characterize the financial district and the Republic City skyline. With a sigh, she digs her hands a little deeper into the pockets of her hoodie and walks out of the stairwell and onto the roof, into the sky.

The city stretches far below, all shimmering yellow lights, but Asami only spares it a glance. Her eyes are trained on the figure that is standing awfully closed to the edge of the building, overviewing the cityscape. Her braid dances in the breeze and when she turns, all three of her burning eyes are fixed on Asami, who stops dead in her tracks.

“Hi…P’li.” P’li’s face contorts into something bitter.

“Red Lotus,” she corrects her, before leaving the edge and facing Asami fully. Though Asami is not small by all means, Red Lotus towers over her—standing face to face like this, Asami reaches about as high as the other woman’s chin.

“Sorry about that,” Asami mutters awkwardly, before dumping the bag on the plating of the roof. The fuel pallets make a harsh, clanking noise as she does and Red Lotus winces slightly.

“Careful with those,” she says, as she gets out her phone. “We may need every last one.” Not saying another word, Red Lotus starts going through what Asami can only assume are the building plans on her phone. She considers apologizing again since she’s tired and, as a result, was indeed a little careless with the ceramic uranium oxide pallets. But they’re standing on an unfenced rooftop for no clear reason apart from Red Lotus’ apparent dramatic flair, so she supposes she’s not entirely the one to blame for her shaky hands, here. “Alright,” Red Lotus says shortly as she puts away the phone and grabs the bag. “Follow me. And brace yourself.” Asami gets no chance to respond, because Red Lotus turns around, breathes in harshly through her nose and as she exhales, what can only be described as pure energy ripples through the air, sparking from the tattooed eye on Red Lotus’ forehead and hitting the roof below her feet in the blink of an eye.

Asami shrieks as the energy erupts into heat, smoke and debris, and the steady surface below her feet disintegrates. Her arms flail as they fall several levels, until she falls on something hard. The desk doesn’t do much to break her fall and Asami can’t move for a moment as a sharp pain takes a hold of her limbs. It’s not until after her body has rolled off it and onto the ground that it starts to subside somewhat, and Asami manages to get back on her feet again.

“A little warning next time?” she grunts. Red Lotus just smirks.

“I did tell you to brace yourself,” is her answer. An alarm has started ringing somewhere deeper in the building but Red Lotus doesn’t pay it any mind, instead leaving the office they landed in and entering the hallway. As they pass the elevators, Asami notices they’re at a floor that was closed off when she came up—somehow, entering it like this doesn’t feel like the most discrete way to handle a criminal operation. Still, she follows her teacher as she weaves through the hallways like she owns the place.

They enter a stairwell that’s tucked away behind a locked, steel door. It’s no match for Red Lotus’ combustion ability and as they make their way down, Asami notes the differences with the public stairwell she had taken to the roof. Whereas that one was pristine and white, this one is dusty and dim-lit, and Asami can’t shake the feeling that this place plays a role in something she doesn’t want anything to do with.

When they’ve gone down what feels like five floors, Red Lotus bursts through another steel door and leads them into another maze of corridors. This floor doesn’t seem to have any windows looking outside, only thick reinforced glass panels embedded in the corridor walls, showing laboratories and other abandoned facilities as the two of them walk past.

Finally, Red Lotus opens the door to an office, quickly stepping inside and closing the door behind Asami. It’s probably the most unremarkable room in this place, but then Red Lotus, who appears to be considerably more well-informed than someone with only access to the building plans of this place, opens the lowest drawer of the ebony desk that sits against the wall.

Inside, in the pale fluorescent light, gleams a gun the size of a bazooka. With a wicked grin, Red Lotus fishes one of the ceramic pallets out of the bag. “Let’s see if this thing works,” she mutters as she fiddles with it, and the sinking feeling that she’s gotten mixed up with something actually, truly dangerous comes over Asami. Nuclear energy is an amazing resource, but has the potential for city-wide destruction as well, depending on how one harnesses it.

A handful of little black cubes click into place within the magazine, before Red Lotus pushes it back into place and loads the gun with a grin. “Fits like a glove,” she mutters, handing the bag to Asami but holding onto the gun herself. “Alright. Let’s get out of there.” Asami releases her breath shakily and follows her teacher, back outside and into the hallway.

When they get back to the closed off floor, Asami sees the damage clearly for the first time. Red Lotus’ explosion had burned a hole through multiple floors and when Asami stands below the opening, she can see clouds drift serenely overhead. Everything around them is covered in dust and debris and Asami wonders how P’li means to get out of this mess.

Before she can even think to ask, Red Lotus raises the gun and aims it at a wall. With a grin and narrowed eyes, she steadies herself, waits, and pulls the trigger. The energy surge that blasts from the gun’s barrel is loud and so powerful that even Red Lotus can’t fully control the kickback, causing a slight tremor in the blast. It does nothing to lessen the impact—in under a second, the wall Red Lotus had been aiming at is reduced to rubble. Red Lotus’ grin widens. “Come on,” she tells Asami as she enters the cloud of dust that lingers in the whole she just blasted.

Asami is shocked to feel the wind struggle against her face again as she follows her teacher. One hit with this gun had disintegrated anything between them and the side of the building? It would seem too bizarre to be true if Asami hadn’t just seen it happen.

Suddenly, the continuous breeze disappears. Asami halts; the hairs in her neck are standing upright in the sudden silence. She blinks and then Red Lotus is flung back with a wind the force of a tornado, crashing into Asami and sending them both to the ground. Asami groans as her freshly bruised back hits the ground roughly for a second time and pushes Red Lotus off her as she moves to stand. Her teacher is still on the ground, rolling and groaning, when someone approaches through the cloud of dust.

Asami grimaces. Of course, it’s Raava. “So we meet again,” the hero says.

“I suppose three times isn’t the charm?” Asami retorts, her grimace turning into something like a smile when she sees Raava wince at the bad joke.

“Not when you’re with the Red Lotus, no,” she answers. Raava looks like she has more to say, but then Asami hears a deep inhale to her side, followed in under a second by another explosion, aimed at the hero.

***

Korra supposes it’s ironic that she has the Red Lotus to thank for her survival—she can only pull the surrounding debris up in an earthen wall in the brink of time, protecting herself from the explosion. Red Lotus is a foe to be reckoned with. Her name is not just a pretty marker; Korra knows fully well it describes the way anyone who is hit by her explosions look afterwards, their innards coming out like a lotus flower, blooming. She winces at the idea and shakes her head quickly to get rid of the thought, and get her head back into the fight.

The wall provides her with great ammo and without hesitation, Korra starts punching rock after rock at the pair, standing only a few steps away. Electricity crackles through the air as the girl next to Red Lotus averts the stone and as Korra ducks behind the remainder of the wall to avoid a surge thrown in retaliation, she wonders what exactly she’s doing with Red Lotus. Wasn’t she partnering with Amon, the first time they met? Maybe that theory should be revisited.

Breaking her own train of thought, Korra emerges from her cover and pounces, raining down a wheel of fire with an extended leg as she somersaults through the air. The girl is fast and jumps out of range but Red Lotus seems not to care, and breaks the barrage of flames with a wild swipe of her bare arms, before getting back to her feet. She breathes in harshly like before as Korra spots a dirty watercooler underneath a desk. As she jumps to the side, Korra spreads her arms towards the water inside it and by swinging her arms back down again, effectively pulls the whole thing in front of her body. Red Lotus’ third eye had been following her closely and not a second passes or the watercooler explodes in the air, evaporating the water inside.

A grin appears on Korra’s face as she breaks her fall. The more destruction her enemy causes, the more she becomes surrounded by the elements she commands. With a deep breath, she settles her nerves and finds that familiar connection, buried deep inside her mind, nestling in the space behind her heart.

For a moment Korra can feel every droplet of water where it touches her skin, the specks of earth on her arms and hands, the heat of where a desk caught on fire behind her and the wind, still relentlessly finding its way through the holes Red Lotus put in this building. Then Raava awakes.

When Korra raises from her crouch, she knows her eyes are glowing. Red Lotus’ face is twisted up in anger and a glance to the side shows the girl, eyes wide with shock, clutching onto her backpack with white knuckles. Korra huffs as she slams her fists together, then moves water, earth, fire and air in spirals around her body. The girl is standing just barely out of her range when she starts burying Red Lotus under the harsh elements, that are being carried by the spirit inside her.

The water grips Red Lotus’ wrists and ankles, freezing her limbs to the ground. Aided by a burst of air, Korra bends a slab of molded earth and clasps it around her forehead roughly, obscuring Red Lotus’ eyes. But the other woman squirms backwards and before it can come into contact with skin, the earth combusts. The force of the explosion pushes Korra back a few steps, slowing her down enough for Red Lotus to break her right arm from the ice.

Korra coats her hands and arms in flames and grits her teeth as metal gleams in the yellow light—it’s all she can do before Red Lotus pulls the trigger and she’s engulfed in a rigorous blast. With a clenched jaw, Korra withstands the heat and the pain that follows when even the fire carried by Raava is blown away. Then the ground disappears beneath her feet and as her eyes crack open Korra’s heart shoots up in her throat—she’s suspended high in the air and, after being propelled sideways, in the process of falling down.

A curse escapes her mouth and she quickly takes control again, bending the wind so that it carries her back to the scene. Another explosion further down the building distracts Korra in her way up and as soon as she lands back on the floor of the fight, there is another explosion and she feels a tremor go through the structure.

“She’s going to blow us all to the spirit world.” Korra’s head whips to the side, where the girl is standing, green eyes blazing with adrenaline and fear.

“You shouldn’t even be here,” she retorts. Blood drips on the floor and Korra sees it run down her fingers from a nasty gash in her forearm.

“Neither should you,” the girl notes. Its contents clink as she rummages in the bag, then pushes it into Korra’s free arm. “Hold still.” Raava’s energy is still pulsing through her muscles, but Korra stays perfectly still as the girl wraps gauze around her arm. Her movements are quick but shaky and once again, Korra wonders if the girl has any experience with this.

She can’t help herself. “Tell me one thing,” Korra starts. “What made you turn evil?” Firm fingers tie the ends of the gauze together tightly. Another tremble shocks the building.

“I take offense at that characterization,” the girl answers with a deprecating grin.

“Criminal, then.” The criminal in question pushes the roll of gauze back into the backpack and zips it shut. She sighs.

“I failed.”

“What did you fail?” Korra asks. The building starts shifting dangerously now and she knows she should take action, soon. Raava should be able to help her stabilize it. But not just yet—“Your family? Yourself? I understand—”

“No, you don’t,” the girl says, chuckling lightly and making Korra pause entirely. “I failed civil engineering.” The fingers that were lingering on Korra’s wrist squeeze the skin there softly before letting go and then the increasingly familiar sound of electricity crackling fills the air.

Breaking glass, the groan of steel beams bending and the crumbling of concrete fill the air all at the same time and Korra’s movements are instantaneous. She takes no time to see the girl leave—she has to act now. From a low, solid position, she plants one foot firmly on the ground and bends all available material into a broad column, traveling through the floors of the building and settling it like a spine. Beads of sweat roll down Korra’s temples as she creates another one opposite to it, securing the building’s safety.

She’s thoroughly exhausted by the time she makes it back to the bar, one bandaged arm cradling her middle where Korra feels a bruised rib or two reside, the other carrying a black backpack, that jingles in the quiet of the night.

“I don’t know why you’re so determined to save this girl from the clutches of evil,” Bolin says as he pours her some whiskey. The bar is already closed for the night, but on days like today he likes to cut her some slack.

“I’m not,” Korra says as she unwraps the bandage the girl had so persistently wrapped around her arm. It comes away stained bright red, but the bleeding looks to have stopped. Korra regards the wound carefully, and silently considers whether it needs stitches or not.

“Then why do you keep giving her second chances?” Bolin asks as he hands her the glass. “This is, what, the third time you let her go?”

“She got away. That’s something else,” Korra responds, before taking a sip. The whiskey burns comfortably as it goes down and Korra decides a fresh bandage will have to be enough for her arm. She fishes a dirty rag from the bar and wipes at the remaining blood

“Whatever you say,” Bolin says. “I think she’s playing you. Uh, that’s gonna get infected.”

“It’ll be fine,” Korra mutters, throwing the rag down and zipping open the bag the girl so hastily thrust into her arms. “I can’t figure out what her deal is. First she shows up with Amon, now with Red Lotus… Not to mention what she told me tonight.” Bolin raises one of his thick eyebrows.

“What?” Korra fishes the gauze out of what looks like a sea of black, little, cubed pearls.

“When I asked her why she’s doing this, she told me it’s because she failed some engineering course.” Bolin snorts, almost choking on his own whiskey.

“Wait, she’s a Republic City University student?”

“I guess,” Korra answers. “It’s possible there are people at the university who are involved with Red Lotus, or Amon for that matter. I could ask my uncle to look into it; he’s a mathematics professor there.”

Going to see Unalaq wouldn’t normally be Korra’s first choice, but the pain from her injuries is making her agitated enough to consider it. She will find out who this girl is and why she’s doing this—because she’s not truly evil. Korra is convinced of that much.

***

The sun is out for the first time all week and Asami revels in the way it warms her cheeks and her hair. The terrace she and Opal are having lunch at is near empty; there is supposed to be rain later today, but Asami has never been one to shy away from risks. Besides, she’s missed this.

“I should be done in a week. Please promise me we’ll hang out more often, then.”

“Oh, you bet,” Opal answers. Her light eyes gain a mischievous shadow. “But—you’re done in a week. Does that mean it’s too early to celebrate?” Asami checks her watch. It’s half past twelve.

“You know it’s never too early for me,” she grins. “But yes, today it is. I might still get called upon tonight.”

“Ugh, why?” Opal huffs as she tears off a piece of bread from her sandwich and chews on it, slowly. “Going to school in the evening should be a crime.”

“Yeah,” Asami sighs. “It should. I’m fine with it, though—the, uh,” just a moment’s hesitation when Asami remembers the word she’s been using to describe her extracurriculars, “project will be completed tonight. Or at least, my part in it.”

“Then… Would you be up for drinks Friday?” Asami takes a sip from her coffee.

“Of course.” Opal’s smile creeps up into a grin.

“Bolin will be there, too,” she says.

“He better,” Asami replies, wearing a grin of her own. “It’s about time I get to meet the mystery man who’s captured my best friend’s heart.” Opal snorts, but the skin below her eyes grows slightly more pink.

Stop talking about him like that,” she mutters, a bit flustered but still grinning widely. “Please, Asami. Act normal and I’ll introduce you to his friend he runs a bar with.”

“Oh?” Asami says. “You never told me he’s a bartender.”

Half an hour later, the sun has disappeared behind a thick cover of clouds, and a stark wind has struck up. Asami’s phone rings like clockwork.

“Hello?”

“Asami,” the cool, slightly creepy voice of her teacher, Unalaq sounds through the speaker. “Can I count on seeing you at our meeting spot at 7?” The way he phrases it makes it sound like a date and Asami’s face twists up in contempt.

“Uh, yeah, I’ll be there,” she answers. “No luck on fixing us up with another location, then?”

“No, sorry,” Unalaq answers. “I know you would have preferred to keep this business as far away from your personal life as possible. As is understandable.” Asami rolls her eyes, grateful for the way speaking over the phone allows her to do so without consequence.

“It’s okay,” she says, if only just to make this conversation be over quicker. “We won’t take long, right?”

“Right,” Unalaq says.

“Okay. See you there,” Asami says, before ending the call and sighing very, very deeply. Out of all three of her teachers, she likes Unalaq the least. Still, the knowledge that it’s nearly over will have to see her through it, Asami thinks as she looks up at the pack of grayscale clouds that’s passing over. A drop of rain falls on her cheek.

That drop has turned into a full downpour by the time Asami pulls up at the building that houses the Sato laboratories. She parks her car in the otherwise completely empty lot and fishes out the keys to this place out of her pocket as she hurries through the rain.

It feels weird to be here after sundown. After her dad’s death two years ago, the Sato company and all of its holdings were transferred to her, but still. Turning off the alarm and switching on the lights in the facility feels more like breaking in than any of the other places Asami entered in service of her teachers, so far. Or maybe it’s the absence of her backpack that is making her feel a little strange.

Briefly, as she makes her way to the main lab, Asami wonders if Raava has figured out what the pallets are, yet.

She turns on the light here, too and her heart jumps all the way up to her throat, because Unalaq is already there, sitting motionless as a statue.

“Spirits,” Asami breathes, trying to get a hold on her racing heartbeat. “You scared me.” Unalaq pays it no mind and stands up.

“Let’s get started, the sooner we’ll be out of here,” he says. “That’s what you wanted, right?”

“Right,” Asami nods. She quickly shrugs on a lab coat and joins him at the materials closet.

Chemistry has never been a strong suit of hers, and as she watches Unalaq select a number of chemicals with the greatest ease, Asami wonders why she’s even there. The feeling stays as Unalaq recites the ingredients of whatever it is that they’re making, and it stays as he starts manipulating the differently colored liquids, bending them through the air and carefully mixing them into the flask. Somehow, the way he moves reminds her of Raava.

All Asami can do now is watch his process and, every once in a while, the clock on the wall.

The air in the room becomes more permeated with strong, chemical smells as time progresses and Asami wonders what kind of poison Unalaq is cooking up, exactly. The end product is a thin, oily liquid with a deep purple color, that’s the littlest bit luminescent. It sticks to the glass and lights up Unalaq’s mad grin as he swirls it around in the flask.

“Perfect,” Unalaq mutters. “Absolutely perfect.”

“Ready to go, then?” Asami says. He always seemed like a nice enough professor, but seeing the criminal side to him is sending shivers down her spine and she just wants to get out of here. Unalaq transfers the liquid from the flask to a vial and corks it.

“Yes,” he says. “Let’s go.”

As he takes the first step, the overwhelming sound of shattering glass breaks the silence. Asami turns around and meets cool, blue eyes.

“Raava,” she breathes, and with some confusion Asami realizes she feels glad to see the hero.

“Uh, hi,” Raava answers. She takes on a low position and narrows her eyes. “I’ll be taking it from here. Give me the poison… Unalaq.” Something weird happens between the two of them; something Asami isn’t in on, but something that she isn’t so far removed from that she doesn’t notice it, either. Something like recognition, flashing in Raava’s eyes. Something that looks like shock passing over Unalaq’s face. Raava grits her teeth and pounces, jumping at Unalaq, hand thrust forward to take the vial from him.

Unalaq steps to the side and avoids the charge, but Raava is fast and takes control of the water within the pipes, guiding it out of the taps all over the lab and freezing it around Unalaqs feet and wrists, tying his hands together. With a grin, she takes the vial from his hands.

“I’ll be taking this,” Raava says, smugly. Unalaq’s eyes are ablaze with anger.

“Don’t just stand there!” he yells at Asami. “Do something!”

Asami knows she should, but there’s a sense of really, really not wanting to that keeps her nailed to the ground. Maybe it’s the fact Raava still has her backpack, and that she’d like to get it back someday. Still, she assumes a fighting stance and watches as Raava stops walking, watching her, waiting.

“Please forgive me.” Asami mumbles it like a prayer, before moving in and placing a well-aimed kick at Raava’s wrist. The hero curses as the vial flies through the air, already twisting around, but Asami is faster and places a hand on her shoulder, sending a powerful surge through her body. At the same time, Unalaq breaks the ice around his hands and manipulates the liquid within the vial, catching it right before it breaks on the tiled floor.

“Let’s go,” he says, his expression darkening as his eyes fall on Raava, passed out on the floor. “We’ve wasted enough time already.” With that, he makes his way out of the lab, not bothering to wait for Asami to follow.

Asami pauses. She takes off her lab coat, folds it, crouches down next to Raava and carefully slides it under her head.

“Sorry again,” she whispers, before following Unalaq out the door.

***

The low sun burns through the front window of the bar, making the atmosphere inside just that much more warm and bright. It’s a welcome reprieve after the downpour from yesterday, Korra thinks. Even if the light does make her eyes hurt a little.

It’s a slow day for a Friday afternoon, with mainly regulars occupying their usual spots, the sound of the tv turned off in favor of one of Bolin’s indie playlists. Korra doesn’t mind it—it gives her ample time to go over the events of yesterday another time.

In particular, Unalaq, her uncle, breaking and entering in a laboratory to create a foul looking purple substance. If Korra has to guess, she’s pretty sure it’s poison. Her uncle is a harsh man and if he is a involved with the girl who has previously been involved with both Amon and Red Lotus, then… Well. They’re simple dots to connect. Korra is convinced that he must be a criminal, too.

She takes another sip from her beer. Then there’s the matter of the girl, herself.

Korra, for as impulsive and headstrong she might be, has always prided herself on her ability to get a good read on people. She can see evil, identify vile causes by someone’s expression, or in the way they move their bodies. It manifests as a gut feeling and it’s what makes her a reliable hero. Or at least, that’s what Korra used to think.

The beautiful girl with the raven-haired ponytail, the blazing green eyes and electrical powers has never once given her that feeling, despite the array of things Korra has caught her doing. Cutting the cable of a power plant, stealing from the old harbor, breaking into and nearly demolishing a building, making a nasty purple poison. If it had been anyone else, Korra would not have hesitated to make an arrest.

But she apologized for doing those things, for shocking Korra, and she had bandaged up her arm without Korra ever asking her to. She gave her that backpack she always seemed to carry, though Korra hasn’t figured out why, or what exactly the shiny black cubes in it are, yet. She has had the opportunity to seriously hurt Korra a couple of times now, but she hasn’t. And she failed civil engineering, Korra’s mind helpfully supplies. As if that clears any of it up.

Korra downs the last of her glass and looks around. Bolin is behind the bar, typing something on his phone and smiling at the screen as if it’s telling him he’s the most beautiful person on earth. Sneakily, Korra dumps her glass in the sink and moves to stand behind him, on her toes, peering over his broad shoulders.

He’s texting someone named Opal, with way too many pink colored emojis for Korra’s taste. Still, she grins widely, and croons: “Ooh, Bolin, what do we have here?” Bolin shrieks, almost dropping his phone in a hurried attempt to lock it. “Has someone stolen your heart, ya big goof?”

“No,” he says, his face getting redder by the second. “Maybe. Well, yes.” Bolin turns around and leans against the bar heavily as he sighs. “Her name is Opal, which suits her so well because she’s as beautiful as an opal, not to mention funny, and kind, and very sweet.”

“Wow,” Korra grins. “You’ve got it bad, huh?” Bolin sighs again, but it sounds love-stricken more than anything else.

“I do,” he admits. “I’ve been seeing her on my free nights, but…” He pauses and eyes her wearily. Korra only raises an eyebrow.

“What?”

“She’s coming here tonight,” Bolin admits. “And I promise I won’t slack off, I just really wanted to see her again and she’s introducing me to her friend and—”

“Bolin,” Korra interrupts, placing a hand on his shoulder. “It’s fine. I’m happy for you.” At the sight of Bolin’s face erupting into a wide smile Korra can feel her own grow, too. That’s how powerful Bolin is, and that’s part of the reason why she loves him so much. “At what time is she coming?” Bolin unlocks his phone, no longer caring if Korra sees any of his messages.

“Around nine,” he replies with a giddy grin.

“Good,” Korra smiles back. “I’m excited to meet her.”

After dinner, the stream of customers starts picking up and soon, the bar is busy with the usual Friday night crowd. Bolin mans the bar while Korra expertly maneuvers through the throng of people to bring them their drinks, a tandem they have about perfected through the years of working together.

Nine o’clock rolls around before Korra knows it, but as she sees Bolin’s face light up in her peripheral vision as she’s fixing up a gin and tonic, she knows Opal has arrived. Her eyes find the door and she sees a short girl with tan skin and a brown bob cut enter, followed by a girl that’s a full head taller. Korra’s eyes linger on the second girl, who with her pitch black hair and bright green eyes looks an awful lot like a certain criminal she knows. As she hands a customer their drink, Korra leans on the bar and watches Bolin greet his little girlfriend.

It’s disgustingly sweet, the way he all but jumps over the bar to get to her, folds his arms around her and presses a chaste kiss to her lips. Korra can’t help but smile at the sight.

“Hey,” a soft, familiar sounding voice says and when Korra turns to the side, she’s suddenly face to face with the other girl, who is holding out her hand for her to shake. “I’m Asami, Opal’s friend.”

“Oh, hey, I’m Korra,” Korra answers, her hands quickly finding a rag to wipe them dry on. “Bolin’s boss, but primarily his best friend. Nice to meet you.” As soon as her fingers close around Asami’s hand, Korra feels a jolt go through her arm. She nearly jumps as the sparks run through her muscles down her spine, but she keeps her body still and her smile in place as she shakes Asami’s hand.

“Enchantée,” she smirks. The self-assured, yet slightly aloof tone of her voice has ingrained itself in Korra’s memory at this point.

This is her criminal. Or, the criminal she keeps catching red-handed; Korra is sure of it. But instead of confronting her, or cuffing her wrists, Korra simply keeps smiling and asks: “What would you like to drink?”

“A daiquiri, please,” the girl answers. She’s not looking at Korra when she says it, instead at her friend with Bolin, who are smiling as they’re catching up, already fully emerged in a world of their own. “They’re cute together, huh?” Despite the fact that they’re sitting on the barstools next to Asami, they don’t seem to have heard her. Korra starts cutting a lemon and grins.

“Yeah,” she says. “I didn’t even know it was this serious, but I’m very excited for him. For them both.” With practiced movements, Korra pours the rum into her cocktail shaker and screws the lid shut. She doesn’t miss the way Asami’s eyes fall on her bare arms as she shakes it and, with a growing blush, Korra pours her daiquiri.

“This is the first time I’ve seen them together, actually,” Asami says, as she takes a sip. Opal throws her head back as she laughs at something Bolin said, and Korra notices Asami’s smile widening. “Hey Opal—aren’t you going to introduce us?”

“Oh right, I’m sorry,” Opal responds. “Asami, this is Bolin. Bolin, this is my best friend, Asami Sato.” Korra’s snort when Bolin stands up to grab Asami’s hand and press a kiss to it is automatic, but her mind stays on the name. Asami Sato. She mentally files it away for later.

“You seem like a good guy,” Asami mumbles, green eyes piercing into green as she assesses him. Bolin fidgets a little under her gaze. “However. If you hurt Opal in any way, for whatever reason, I will find you and make sure that no one else will, ever again. I hope that’s clear?” The seriousness in her face stuns everyone in a momentary silence, but the tension seeps away when Asami relaxes her posture and takes a gulp from her cocktail.

“Perfectly clear,” Bolin answers, before turning to Korra, giving her a look she can’t quite decipher, but which comes closes to his puppy dog eyes.

“What?” Korra asks, crossing her arms.

“Aren’t you going to do the shovel talk for me?” Asami almost spits out her drink as Opal throws her head back for another laugh, all the while Korra just stares at her friend. His eyebrows do a ridiculous little wiggle and then Korra cracks up too, joining the other girls in their giggling.

It’s around this time that the girl across the bar stops being her criminal, and becomes Asami.

***

“If you had to choose one. Life or death.” Asami watches her bartender struggle, her pretty face scrunched into a painful look as she silently weighs her options. Considering her occupation, she must have multiple favorites in mind.

“I can’t believe you’re doing this to me,” she says with a sigh. “White gummy bear.” Asami raises an eyebrow. “Why, surprised I have a sweet tooth?”

“I really had you pegged as a rum and coke kind of girl,” Asami answers, keeping her eyes on Korra as she grabs a bottle of cherry vodka from the liquor shelf behind her and screws the lid off.

“What can I say?” she says as she pours it into two shot glasses. Her deep blue eyes stay trained on the glasses while she adds peach schnapps, pineapple juice and sprite. “Guess I’m not that predictable.” Korra grins secretively as she pushes the shots towards Asami. “Here you go.”

“Thanks,” Asami mutters before throwing the shot back, reveling in the stingy sweetness on her tongue, then pushing the remaining one back to Korra. “This one is for you.” Korra looks like she wants to make up an excuse and decline, but Asami just leans a bit further over the bar, picking up the shot glass and handing it to her. The warmth of the alcohol is spreading through her chest and Asami smiles at the feeling.

Eventually, Korra stops looking so doubtful and takes the glass, throwing it back like a champ and slamming the glass down on the bar, making Asami giggle for no other reason than how much she makes it seem like a chore. “Normally I never drink on the job,” Korra mentions, as she pours them another round. “Or like, almost never. Only on special occasions. Here, on the house.”

“Don’t worry,” Asami purrs. “I won’t tell.” She’s warm, comfortable and unbound, and the words keep coming easier. “And thanks. Good to know you consider this a special occasion.” She drinks her second white gummy bear and basks in watching the blush that grows on Korra’s cheeks, as she follows suit.

Bolin and Opal leave somewhere around midnight. It’s not really much of a loss—they’ve been enraptured by each other all night, anyway. Asami gives them both hugs, kissing Opal on the cheek and giving Bolin a soft punch to his arm, as well as a second warning that he’ll regret it if he hurts her best friend. But it carries none of the seriousness from before, because even though it’s only been three hours and they barely talked for more than half an hour of it, the way Opal lights up around him is clear as day. Besides, he must be one of the funniest boys Asami has met and she appreciates the way he doesn’t rely on that as a means for people to like him, but rather uses it to make the people around him smile.

That leaves her alone with Korra, who has been her conversation partner for the majority of the night, their talk only occasionally interrupted by other customers. Now it’s half an hour to closing, the bar is mostly empty and Asami finds herself with a glass of Malbec and the bartender’s full attention.

“So what’s the North Pole like?”

“Cold and unforgiving,” Korra answers. Her hands are leaning on the edge of the bar, her eyes focused on the way the red wine ripples in Asami’s glass. “But warm when you’re with family. And nothing compares to the nature there.” The mention of family sends a familiar sting through Asami’s heart and she takes a sip.

“Do you miss it a lot?” she asks. Somehow, they’ve moved from naming their favorite drinks to asking about each other’s pasts.

“Sometimes. Especially in the summer, when the city gets unbearable.” Korra moves and scours the small fridge behind her for a bottle of white wine, as if the sheer mention of heat made her crave it. The bar is empty now, so Asami shouldn’t be so surprised when Korra grabs a glass and brings it to a table tucked away in the corner, before turning the sign on the door and returning to her side. “Let’s sit,” she says. Asami notices that the color of her eyes looks like the sea in the dim lights.

“Sure,” she replies, grabbing onto Korra’s arm as she lifts herself off the bar stool, holding on all the way to the booth behind the table.

“Hold on, I’ll get you a clean glass,” Korra says as after she uncorks the bottle of Chardonnay. Asami stops her when she moves to get up, holding her wrist gently as she quickly swallows the remaining Malbec in her glass. The wine is rich and she winces slightly as it goes down.

“Don’t bother,” Asami says as she holds out her now empty glass. “I don’t mind.”

“Not afraid to get dirty, huh?” her bartender jokes as she fills it up with white wine. Asami snorts and grins widely.

“Not at all,” she replies, briefly and sorely reminded of her criminal career. A slow sip and a glance at Korra’s eyes make her forget all about it, though and Asami covertly moves the smallest bit closer to her. “So.” Korra closes the distance; their bare arms touch and Asami promptly forgets what she was going to say.

“So,” Korra replies, grinning. Asami suspects she’s fully aware of the effect she has on her and decides that she doesn’t want to give Korra the satisfaction of knowing she’s right. At least, not yet.

“…What made you decide to run a bar?” Asami asks, mentally thanking the spirits that her ability to come up with some improvised response on the spot isn’t impaired by the fact that she’s halfway drunk. Korra smiles at the question and leans back in the booth.

“It was left to me, actually,” she says. Her eyes glide over the bar slowly, no doubt seeing memories in every panel of dark wood. “When I first arrived in the city, the previous owner gave me a job here. His name is Tenzin. He’s retired now, lives with his wife and kids on an island out in Yue Bay.” Korra smiles, softly. “I remember when he told me he was leaving me in charge. To this day, it’s the best thing anyone’s ever given me.” From how close she’s sitting, Asami drinks in the sight of a blush on dark skin and gentle blue eyes, nearly hidden away by her bangs. She has half a mind to kiss Korra right then and there, though she knows it could never come close to the gift of this place. She just really wants to give Korra something, as well. “Enough about me,” Korra mutters as she leaves her memories, turning her head to look at Asami with a smile. “What made you decide to study engineering?”

It’s a very long story, involving her parents, the family business and every big loss Asami has ever experienced in her life. But this isn’t the first time the question has been posed, so Asami allows herself a melancholic smile and replies: “My father.”

“Oh, right,” Korra says. “The guy from Future Industries.” Asami snorts. In her circles, it’s not often that someone doesn’t know her father by name.

“Hiroshi Sato, yeah.” She thinks about her father and the first car they ever built together. She remembers the long afternoons they spent in the garage tinkering on it, before her mother called them in for dinner. “He taught me machinery and engineering ever since I was a kid. Up until the day he died, he would always sent me texts with new research papers he thought would interest me.” Asami swirls the wine around in her glass. “I used to tell him I was too busy with school to read most of them. And of course I was; I had plenty of assigned reading to get through.” A deep sigh leaves her chest, but this wound has scarred and doesn’t ache like it used to. “But then he got in the accident, and I can’t help feeling kind of guilty ever since.”

“I understand,” Korra says. Her arm finds its way around Asami’s shoulders and though Asami is far from cold, she welcomes the warmth. “I think by now you must know it’s not your fault?” She waits for Asami to nod, then continues. “Right. I think… You can remember the good times you had, and maybe take solace in the fact that you loved him and he loved you, no matter what you left undone. I know I’m just your bartender—” You’re already far more than that, Asami wants to say. “—But I know that he’s proud of you. I know I am.”

“You are?” Asami asks, taken aback. Korra rubs at her neck awkwardly, looking away as she speaks.

“Yeah. You’re funny, you’re smart, not to mention absolutely stunning. You’re doing great.” Korra finally meets her gaze then and as she smiles, Asami can feel her heart trip up in its beat.

They were already sitting close together, the product of a tipsy, whispered conversation, but those words prompt Asami to lean in even closer. She never does this, normally. But she’s drunk and Korra is the nicest girl she’s met in months, and doesn’t she deserve something good after having been forced to be bad? Her eyes close, she leans in…

The harsh noise of a phone vibrating on the bar’s veneer shatters the moment. Asami is sure she’s never been so close to someone’s face without kissing them before and groans. Korra chuckles in her ear before standing up to get the phone; Asami misses the arm around her shoulders instantly.

“Here,” Korra says gently, as she slides back into the booth and hands her the phone. Asami thanks her and quickly checks the message—if it’s nothing, she sees no reason why they can’t pick back up where they left off, maybe open another bottle of wine, get to know each other a little more…

But the text is from Dr. Noatak and when Asami opens it she’s greeted with an address, nothing more, and it becomes clear that she’s being summoned.

***

She sees what’s in the text, of course. As well as who it’s from. Korra might not be in her Raava getup right now, but she’s never entirely off duty. And though she’d spent the night casually drinking with and getting to know Asami Sato, that doesn’t mean she’s forgotten about Criminal Asami.

So Korra smiles kindly through Asami’s excuses, hugs her when they say goodbye at the door and as soon as she’s rounded the corner, closes up shop and leaves through the back as Raava.

The address leads her to the very outskirts of town, closer to the base of the mountain range that encases the city than the center of the city itself. There is nothing out here except a water treatment plant at the base of the river coming down the mountains, hidden between the pine trees, so that’s where Korra goes.

It’s well into the night. The sky is clear and painted a deep black, offset by random clusters of stars that are more visible now that Korra is away from the light of the city. Still, out here, at the end of an abandoned back road hidden underneath the pines, her surroundings are cloaked in absolute darkness. If not for the harsh blue lights illuminating the water treatment plant, Korra thinks she could actually have gotten lost. When she walks up to the closed gate, she realizes she’s broken the pattern that had formed between her and Asami—for once, Korra has managed to beat her to the crime scene. In fact, it seems like no one is here yet; not this ‘Noatak’ who had sent her the text, either.

Turns out she doesn’t have to wait long. As soon as Korra cracks open the gate in order to scope out the surrounding terrain, she hears another pair of footsteps crunch on the gravel pathway, behind her.

“Thank you for the help, Raava.” Amon’s low voice sounds thin as it travels through the all too familiar mask and huh, so his real name must be Noatak. From his shadow Asami appears, again dressed in all black, looking tired and a little unsteady on her feet. Korra makes a mental note of checking Amon’s name against the Republic City University faculty list—the school seems to be the primary connection between her uncle and Asami, and it wouldn’t surprise her if Amon turns out to be involved in this scheme of theirs, as well.

“You have a weird idea of what helping means,” Korra fires back, as she spreads her feet apart and bends her knees. With short, strong movements, she rips two blocks of rock from the earth and goes on the offense.

Amon is fast and cartwheels out of the way as Asami’s electricity crackles along her knuckles and, with an impressive punch, she breaks the rock that was headed for her impeccable face. The second one flies towards Amon, who simply twists out of the way, jumps and brings his leg down on the chunk of earth. Korra uses the space this creates to get close to him and swing a punch at his face. Amon dodges and his hands fly towards Korra’s pressure points. Aided by her mastery over the element of air, Korra jumps up, out of his reach. She has encountered Amon before—his knowledge of the energy pathways and how they run through the body has proved difficult every time, and Korra’s painfully aware that if she gets incapacitated against these two, she will be in big trouble.

As she falls back to the ground, Korra twists in the air so that she’s falling with her balled fists forward. The earth ripples out from where she hits it, like a pebble in a pool, and both Amon and Asami jump backwards. With a grimace, Korra turns to Asami. It feels very wrong to turn on her like this after the night they’ve had and, if her movements are anything to go by, the alcohol that is still coursing through Asami’s veins. But in order to end up on top, Raava has to make the smart decision here. With fire dancing around her ankles as she leaps, Korra swings a fist at Asami.

She’s slower than usual, Korra notices almost immediately. The determined set of her mouth and the way her eyes blaze is unchanged; it’s almost familiar to her, at this point. But her movements are sluggish and off their mark. Only when Asami’s electrical surge flies right over her head, Korra realizes she could win this in no time, if she goes all out.

Asami kicks at her feet and promptly loses her balance, and Korra pities her. With quick, sharp movements, Korra bends the earth up and around her wrists and ankles, chaining her down.

“Stay here,” Korra tells her, voice barely a whisper. Then she turns to Amon, who had been watching their exchange from a distance, arms crossed. Though his face is obscured by the mask, Korra has the strange feeling he’s frowning. She wonders if Asami could break out of her stone restraints with her electricity, if she really wanted to. In the distance, police sirens roughly rupture the silence of the forest.

Korra doesn’t wait for Amon; she is carried by the wind as she pounces with outstretched arms, reaching for the water that’s beyond the gate and the building behind it, where it rushes down the mountain. The icy water encases her fingers as soon as she lands at the spot where Amon had been standing. He’s as fast as Asami is when she hasn’t had a bottle of wine, so Korra turns the water at her fingers to icicles and fires them at him. Amon dodges by jumping up—two icy bullets hit his leg—and towards Korra.

She grunts as she blocks a barrage of meticulously placed jabs. Fighting Amon never actually seems that bad until you’re in the thick of it—Korra’s fire fueled punch misses and allows Amon the opportunity to hit her shoulder in two places—her arm instantly grows limp and falls down the side of her body. Korra grits her teeth and angrily twists to create a vortex of air and fire with her legs, but Amon, as close as he’s standing, easily steps to the side to avoid it and the chunks of earth Korra rips from the ground they’re walking on.

Her attacks only seem to delay the inevitable. Another missed shot and Amon, that slithering snake, crouches down and renders her leg useless with a series of rapid blows. Instantly, it buckles under her weight and Korra falls to her knees. She tries to ward Amon off by raising her one functioning arm and creating a wall out of earth, but her adversary simply jumps over it, landing behind her and blocking the energy paths in her other arm.

The force of the jabs forces Korra to the ground, her face pressed to the soft earth covered in pine needles. From this angle she can see Amon towering over her, watching, listening. Then Korra hears it, too—the sirens are loud and close now, meaning it’s probably only a matter of minutes before they find them here. Without saying anything or even sparing Asami a second glance, Amon runs off, disappearing back into the shadows. With a groan, Korra uses her last functional limb and her shoulders to crawl to where Asami is still bound by the earth.

“Hey,” she says, slightly breathless, when she reaches the other girl. “You okay?” Asami glares at her, but the twigs in her hair and the smudge of dirt on her cheek make it lose some of its power.

“Been better,” she says. Blazing green eyes narrow as they turn to the tree line and Korra realizes it’s not Raava she’s mad at, but Amon, for abandoning her like this. The sirens are getting louder. If they stay here, like this, Asami is going to get arrested. She doesn’t think about it too deeply, because if she does she might lose her edge—Korra lifts the one leg she can still move and swings it down, effectively returning the earth that’s holding Asami back to dust.

“Look,” Korra starts when Asami stays where she is, staring at her in surprise. “You don’t have to tell me this was the last time.”

Asami hesitates. “But it was.” It’s almost desperate, how much Korra want’s to believe her.

“I’m sure you believe so.” With a slight groan, Korra pushes against the ground with her leg and turns herself to her back, resting her head. Above them, the stars are twinkling. “I’m just saying. I think that deep down, you’re a good person, no matter what you think you have to do.” Asami’s face reappears as she leans over her, strands of black hair falling out of her ponytail and tickling Korra’s cheek, a concerned look on her face. Sure, this probably sounds very counterintuitive, coming from Republic City’s hero. But as soon as Korra speaks the words, she realizes it’s all true. “You should get out of here,” she resumes. “The police will get here soon.”

“Why are you letting me go?” Asami asks. Korra can’t find the words to clearly explain her reasons and she might not even fully be convinced of them herself, so she just shrugs, grateful she can still move her shoulders. The hardness that had lingered in Asami’s eyes fades. “Well, thank you.”

“No need to thank me,” Korra replies. “Just, make sure to drink a few glasses of water before you go to sleep, or you’ll regret it in the morning.” Asami opens her mouth to say something, probably to ask her what she means with that, but all of a sudden they’re engulfed in the bright white of cop car headlights. Korra blinks, temporarily blinded, and when her sight returns Asami is gone and it’s the chief who is standing over her. “Hey,” Korra says as she squints, giving Beifong a grin that’s never succeeded in cheering her up, before. “Fancy meeting you here.” The chief keeps glaring daggers at her; turns out that today isn’t any different.

***

The sun isn’t up yet, but first light has crept above the horizon when Asami gets home. The adrenaline that had subdued the influence of the alcohol during her fight with Raava is dissipating and she starts feeling dizzy and a little unsteady on her legs. With her last efforts, Asami downs a glass of water in the kitchen before making her way up to her room and collapsing on the bed.

She doesn’t bother changing out of the dirty black hoody and track pants and instead burrows her face into the pillow a bit deeper. For some reason, she can’t stop thinking about what Raava said to her, after freeing her and letting her go. How had she known Asami had spent the evening drinking? Was it that obvious? Asami groans and turns to her side. It doesn’t seem like a very normal thing to say to your enemy, but then again the line between enemies and… Not enemies, has always been blurred between them.

Still, Asami thinks as she turns to her back and stares at the ornamented ceiling. Tonight marks the first time she was let go, rather than able to escape. Tonight also is the last time she played her part assisting the three super criminals of Republic City, Asami decides. It feels monumental, somehow—talking to Korra all night, Raava letting her leave, putting her proverbial foot down when it comes to her criminal activities… Yes, Asami resolves. Tonight has been a turning point.

With that thought, as well as the memory of Korra’s expression right before she leaned in to kiss her replaying on the back of her eyelids, Asami falls asleep.

“Congratulations!” With a shriek Opal all but jumps to envelop her in a hug, pressing Asami against her tightly. “You did it! Wow, I can’t believe you’re an actual doctor, now.”

“Thanks,” Asami laughs, feeling a little breathless. Though Raava had made sure not everything went entirely according to plan, the three teachers doubling as super criminals in her doctorate committee approving her work for extra credit in time for the due date had been a big relief. Opal lets her go and instead focuses her attention on the rolled up piece of paper Asami is holding. Asami gives it to her—she has spent the whole graduation ceremony staring at it already, the big gothic letters saying ‘Republic City University’, the golden seal of the school and of course, her name on it, written in big, loopy letters. Seeing it black on white like that makes it all feel oddly final. “I can barely believe it, myself.”

“It looks so fancy,” Bolin says as he observes her diploma from Opal’s side. “Are you gonna frame it, or something?” Asami shrugs.

“Maybe,” she replies. “I don’t know yet.” Maybe it would be a little strange, considering she broke the law several times in order to get her doctorate.

“I think you should,” Opal says as she crosses her arms daringly. “Not everyone manages to finish grad school, you know? You should take pride in that.” Asami snatches her diploma from Opal’s hand and rolls it back up, before putting it in her purse.

“All in good time,” she says, “how about we go for a celebratory drink, first?” Bolin cheers in agreement and clasps her shoulder cheerfully as he starts walking, no doubt to go to Spirits. Asami follows with Opal in tow, ignoring how her heartbeat starts to speed up. It’s been a week since she spent her night there with Korra, a week since they almost kissed, a week of regretting she hadn’t asked for her number when she had to leave.

The bar seems to be having a calm afternoon, Asami notices as she follows Bolin and Opal through the door. A classic rock song plays softly in the background and apart from three people sitting at the bar, the place is empty. Her eyes can’t help but land on Korra, behind the bar, drying off glasses.

“Hey guys!” she greets as they join her at the bar, Bolin immediately moving behind the bar to get them all something to drink.

“What would you like, miss?” he asks Opal, who giggles before answering with her go-to white wine.

“And you?” Korra asks Asami. Both of them are watching Bolin pour a glass of Chardonnay fancily, holding it like Asami knows they do it in the high end restaurants near the bay, and it strikes her that this is just like the other night. She turns to Korra with a smile.

“White gummy bear?” she suggests, grinning wide when a smirk pulls up the corner of Korra’s mouth, too.

“Excellent choice,” Korra mutters as she fills two shot glasses and pushes one towards Asami. “This one’s on the house, by the way. For getting your doctorate.” Asami doesn’t ask how she knows, instead focusing on that warm feeling that’s spreading from her chest without a drop of alcohol in her system.

“Thank you,” she answers, sincerely, before raising the shot glass. “Cheers.”

“To you,” her bartender says, still smirking and making Asami blush while she throws it back and swallows it in one go.

Although her classes and, of course, her project are among the reasons why Asami would prefer never to go to grad school again, she has to say graduating has some advantages, mainly that her friends have been buying her drinks all night. The bar has filled up significantly but Asami hasn’t noticed, not when Opal just challenged her to see who can finish their beer the fastest. Opal wins and she’s anything but a sore loser, so Asami licks her hand, pours some salt on it and doesn’t hesitate in a tequila shot. Then Bolin offers her a glass of wine on the house, making Asami burst out in giggles when Korra starts reprimanding him for giving away too many drinks when two glasses ago, she’d been doing exactly the same thing.

The music changes from a pop song to a slow jam and Asami finds herself behind the bar, probably not supposed to be here but there’s something about Korra that has her wanting to stay close to her. “Wanna dance?” she whispers as she leans in close, nose scratching against Korra’s cheek.

It occurs to her that Korra is severely behind on drinks as she smiles and replies as she taps a handful of beers: “I can’t, I’m on duty.”

“Then get off,” Asami protests, leaning back and watching Korra work. “Last time I checked, you own this place.” Korra just laughs it off, so Asami turns to her greatest weapons: big eyes and a pout. “Please?” There seems to be some consideration in those deep blue eyes before they land on Bolin and Korra huffs.

“And leave Bolin in charge? Look at him.” Asami follows her gaze and her mood drops a little when she sees him leaning against Opal, swaying on the music, barely able to stand upright. With a groan, she finds her way back to her bar stool and leans her head in her hands.

“Korra,” she says, barely above a whisper, catching her bartender’s attention after she hands a customer to Asami’s right their drink. “I really wanted to dance with you,” Asami admits, drunk and uncaring, when Korra leans forward to hear. A warm hand is placed on her shoulder, sliding down her upper arm to eventually rest just below the crook of her elbow.

“We close in an hour,” Korra tells her in a low voice, sounding almost conspiratorially. “Can you wait for me?” Yes, of course, forever, Asami wants to tell her, but Korra is already off to cater to someone else’s requests and she’s left to watch and wait. Asami finishes her wine and follows Korra with her eyes as she talks to some people, smiles and goes through the motions of preparing their drinks, reveling in the thought that all that attention will be on only her in an hour.

***

It’s a little after two when the last customer leaves—well, not her last, obviously. The bell at the door chimes before it falls shut and Korra turns to Asami, who’s slumped in one of the booths. She looks tired, her hair mussed, her head leaning back against the wall and dark circles below her eyes. Must be from all her nights out on the town with Republic City’s criminal masterminds, Korra thinks; or maybe it’s just the stress of finishing grad school. But when those jade eyes fall on Korra they light up, as if just seeing that they’re alone now is capable of canceling out her exhaustion. With a smile, Korra joins her in the booth.

“It just occurred to me I haven’t even congratulated you on graduating,” she says. Asami lifts a perfectly arched eyebrow, confused.

“You haven’t?”

“I mean, I’ve given you a couple of free drinks,” Korra continues, grinning at the girl. “But no. So, congratulations. Properly this time.” Asami’s surprised expression melts into a soft gratitude and she pulls Korra into a hug.

“Thank you,” she says with a gentle voice, squeezing Korra against her fleetingly before letting go. Asami sighs contently as she leans back again, letting the silence settle as she swirls the wine in her glass. “This night has been amazing. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had so much fun.” There is a healthy blush on her cheeks that affirms it and Korra smiles.

“Good,” she declares. “You deserve it.” Her mind unintentionally wonders to the times they fought, especially the one where Asami had ended up particularly worse for wear, in the Blackstone building with Red Lotus. Korra’s eyes find Asami’s and she hesitates. “I heard from Opal your final project was no joke.” She doesn’t want to risk Asami finding out she is Raava just yet, but Korra feels like she has to ask her something about her involvement with Amon, Red Lotus and Unalaq, in the most subtle way she can.

Next to her Asami heaves a deep sigh. “It was grueling, for sure. That handful of extracurricular assignments was rigorous and left me with no sleep, but I needed to do them, in order to pass.” Accompanied by another sigh, that content smile reappears on her face. “It was all worth it in the end.”

“I’ll bet,” Korra mumbles. Her mind is still mulling over all the parts of the puzzle that is Asami being a part-time criminal, that are now finally slotting into place. It seems that aside from her uncle, Amon and Red Lotus are connected to the Republic City University, too; and in a position of authority, to exert an influence so severe it would make Asami turn to a life of crime. Perhaps they hold the positions of teachers, like Unalaq. Either way, it’s something Chief Beifong needs to know about. They could uncover some of the most dangerous super criminals in Republic City. And with Asami helping them do it… She could make up for her own part in their plans.

Korra doesn’t realize she’s let the silence drag on until Asami places a warm hand on her shoulder. She’s shifted sideways and is leaning in, like she needs to see all the details of Korra’s face up close. “What are you thinking about?” she asks.

Korra answers earnestly. “You.”

Asami regards her thoughtfully, before saying: “There is actually something I’ve wanted to do since we were here, last time.” The moment Korra remembers Asami—wearing the same blush she is now and sitting at a similar distance, right before her phone interrupted—a pair of soft lips presses against her own.

It’s not her electrical ability, Korra decides then; it’s her relentless talent to make Korra forget all about any unlawful things she has done, right now and that night last week, that is Asami’s true power. On top of that she seems to be completely unaware that she’s doing it, generating this kind of attraction so captivating it’s close to criminal. And if Korra remembers her wrongdoings at all, there is so much to offset the things that stir her compulsion for justice—Asami binding her arm, Asami apologizing, Asami giving her best friend the shovel talk, Asami asking about her childhood… Asami, intoxicated as she is, finding the clarity of mind to do what Korra had not had the courage to do the last time they were in this position.

Asami’s hand slides up her neck to cup her cheek as she leans in even further, pressing her body to Korra’s as the kiss turns from soft to searing, forcing Korra’s arms to slot around her waist and filling her senses with nothing but soft curves and the smell of almond that lingers in Asami’s hair. The temperature in the bar seems to rise a degree the more skin Korra finds beneath Asami’s blouse as her hands roam up and down her back, while Asami’s fingers have found their place at the base of Korra’s head, lightly scratching down her neck and tangling in her hair, pulling her back in whenever they break for air. Asami seems to love biting down on her lower lip softly, holding it there and running her tongue over it. Korra delights in the way Asami giggles when her hands slide around to her stomach, maybe even more so when she slaps her shoulder in an attempt to get her to stop.

“You know, I never do this normally,” Asami speaks into her shoulder when Korra’s hands slide back, relaxing back into Korra’s embrace.

“What, kiss girls?” Korra asks. A sudden, intense feeling of doubt washes over her, gripping her heart in a vicelike grip—she pushes it down, but Asami just chuckles.

“No, silly,” she says, allowing Korra to relax again. “I meant kissing people the first time I meet them.”

“Technically, this is the second time,” Korra replies. And it is, at least with the two of them playing these particular roles.

“I know,” Asami says, leaning back in order to look at Korra properly. “But I would have done this last week, if… You know.”

If Amon hadn’t needed you, Korra thinks. “Yeah.” Her hand comes up to wipe away the black strands that are obscuring the side of Asami’s face, tucking her hair behind her ear and lingering there. “Me too, actually.” Korra ignores the heat behind her cheeks and how fast her heart is beating, instead grinning at Asami unabashedly. “Guess you beat me to it.”

Asami returns her smile, light and easy. “Guess I did.” She pecks Korra on the lips, as if sealing her victory of this moment, and returns to her position nestled in Korra’s arms, with her head resting on Korra’s shoulder and her nose aligning with Korra’s throat.

The silence returns and Asami’s calm breath is all Korra can hear and feel, brushing like a feather over her skin. Her body is warm and pliable in Korra’s arms and her chest feels lighter than it has in a long time, like a breeze could come in and sweep them away at any moment, even with no help from Raava at all.

***

She’s swaying on her feet as she walks, but Asami pays it no mind—Korra’s strong arm is placed snuggly around her middle, holding her up as Asami leans against her. She’s not even that drunk anymore, still Asami has never been above accepting things she doesn’t technically need; whether that’s a fourth glass of wine or her bartender walking her home in the middle of the night.

They walk over a crossing and Asami has lost sight of her feet, stumbling where the sidewalk begins and hanging on to Korra’s neck for her life. Her heartbeat picks up instantly when Korra lets her, maybe even pulling her a little closer. It only serves as a reminder of the kiss they shared, making Asami feeling weak in the knees for a whole other reason.

“Have you forgotten how to walk?” Korra jokes as Asami manages to stumble again, this time over a loose tile.

“Shut up,” she mutters, pressing closer to Korra instead. “I’m drunk, cut me some slack.” Korra just shakes her head as she laughs.

“Alright, Miss Sato. Let’s get you home and in bed.” Asami snorts at how foreign this formal address sounds, coming from Korra.

“Don’t ‘Miss Sato’ me, you already know me better than that,” she says, smiling while Korra softly chuckles. “Besides, you’re trying to get me in bed.” This earns her a loud laugh, with Korra throwing her head back as she cracks up.

“You’re the worst,” she says, pinching her side, making Asami shriek loudly into the night.

“That’s not how you pronounce ‘best’,” she replies. “What have they been teaching you on the North Pole?” Korra keeps laughing, her smile showing off her pearly white teeth and her defined canines.

“Shut up,” she grins.

“You shut up,” Asami mutters back, presenting it as a challenge Korra seems all too eager to take up. In an abandoned street some ways away from Republic City’s never slumbering center, in the silence of the night and illuminated by only a flickering streetlamp, Korra kisses her.

It’s only the second time, Asami reminds herself. It’s only their second kiss, and she already never wants to stop doing it. She turns to Korra fully, kissing her with all the softness she can muster, trying to get fully absorbed in the ambrosial feeling that is making out with the hottest bartender in the city. Angelic, celestial, seraphic, divine… Korra is all of these words and Asami, gladly trapped in her arms, is left to wonder how she hadn’t found her sooner.

When they break apart, neither of them moves away; they stay there, suspended in the feeling, barely more than a hair’s width between them. Even though it’s dark and the street is dimly lit, Asami feels like she could look at the shades of blue in Korra’s eyes forever, or at least until the sun comes up again and gives her a whole new range of cerulean to explore.

The streetlamp above flares in a last ditch attempt to emit some light and then dies, bathing them in darkness. It only adds to Asami feeling like they are the only ones in the city, the United Republic, the entire world, even.

Her lips have only just detached from Korra’s when a sound behind her triggers some sort of primal response, despite her inebriation, making the hairs in her neck stand upright as she freezes. Korra steps back to get a better look at her face. “What’s wrong?” she asks, but Asami turns around instead of answering.

At the next crossing stands a figure that takes Asami’s breath away in the worst way possible, as her eyes fall on the terrifying features of the all-obscuring mask she knows all too well. Korra must have heard of Amon too, she thinks as she hears a sharp intake of breath next to her.

“Don’t worry,” Asami tells her, squeezing the hand that she’s still holding. “I know him. I’ll take care of it.”

“Wait—” Korra starts, but Asami is already stepping towards the hooded figure, slightly wobbly but more steady than before.

“What are you doing here?” she asks Amon as soon as she’s close enough and, more importantly, Korra is far enough away to hear.

“I should be asking you the same thing,” her teacher answers coldly. He’s no doubt remembering the last time they saw each other, at the water plant, last week—Asami is remembering the same thing. Raava had made sure their plans for that evening had failed and now Asami is left to wonder if he had gone back without her, to finish what they started. The memory of all parts of her teachers’ grand scheme she was privy to and helped with is making Asami feel nauseous in a whole new way and she clenches her jaw.

“Actually, I don’t care,” she spits, keeping her voice low. Korra is still back there when she glances over her shoulder, staring at them. “We agreed that we’re done. I don’t owe you anything anymore.” Amon’s eyes darken behind the mask.

“It’s sad you should say that, after all we’ve accomplished together,” he says, silent but with the utmost authority. The self-righteousness that seeps through his tone makes Asami’s skin crawl.

“Becoming a criminal doesn’t exactly equate a noteworthy achievement,” she mutters darkly. In no shape to take on Amon alone, provoking him is the last thing she should be doing right now, but Asami has bottled up these feelings for so long now, ever since that first job with Amon at the power plant… Now that she’s spoken her mind, she doesn’t seem able to stop.

“That doesn’t matter,” Amon replies. Asami balls her wrists, feeling the electricity within her surge through her fingers at the feeling that something is about to go down. “Everything will be worth it once our goal is accomplished. Tell me, Asami, have you never thought about how much better a technocracy would serve not only this city, but this country?” Asami doesn’t have to think long about her answer; it has been the same ever since this topic got broached in her governmental studies elective.

“It wouldn’t.” She speaks the words like a curse, no longer caring if Korra or anyone else hears her. “It’s inherently discriminatory. It’s undemocratic.” Amon closes the remaining distance and moves until he’s standing right in front of her, staring down at Asami, his menacing eyes flashing through the mask.

“And where has democracy gotten us?” he seethes. “A city that changes its tune under every new leader, reverting to the same old song when they’re voted out of office without enacting any lasting change… Letting Republic City dream about what could be achieved in every new election while ultimately, no matter the result, our democratically elected leaders leave it how they found it, a breeding ground of wasted potential.”

“Are you done?” Asami mutters. Amon’s anger is bringing out her own and the only reason she hasn’t leaped on him yet is the reminder of Korra, still standing back there, under the broken streetlamp.

“I’m not,” Amon answers grimly. “But you are.”

Asami feels it before she sees it—Amon’s fingers digging in the soft skin between her shoulder and her clavicle, accompanied by a sharp pain before feeling leaves her arm entirely. But no matter how fast Amon moves, Asami’s electricity is faster; the moment his hand touches her, the wave of electrical energy that had started to dance along her fingertips jumps from her hand to his abdomen. As Asami’s arm falls to her side lifelessly, Amon groans at being tasered in the stomach, and Asami can’t help the chuckle that escapes her throat.

Then, about as sudden as Amon’s attack, Korra appears by her side—stunning Asami into silence as she dropkicks the super criminal in the face, creating a huge crack in the mask that runs from the bridge of the nose down to the side. Asami’s heart jumps up in her throat when Amon falls back on the sidewalk, momentarily incapacitated thanks to the dual attack, gripped by the sudden fear not for Korra possibly seeing her powers just now, but for Korra’s safety.

“What are you doing?” Asami hisses as soon as Korra is back at her side, grabbing her arm and turning her around in an effort to get her to leave. “Korra, you should really stay out of this. Amon is one of the most dangerous people in the city.”

It seems that Korra can’t stop surprising her, like she did when revealing her favorite drink, or in how she speaks about her past, or in the way she has the ability to listen and to really hear. In one smooth movement, Korra grabs an eerily familiar black mask from her back pocket and presses it to her face, so it surrounds her eyes. Then she grins. “I am, too.”

***

It feels strangely freeing, to throw all caution to the wind and reveal her dual identity to Asami like this. But Korra has known about her powers and nighttime activities for a while now, so she supposes this should make them even. And who knows, with the amount of alcohol in her system, Asami might not even remember this tomorrow. Korra glances at the girl and sees her eyes widen and her jaw drop. Okay, she’ll definitely remember this.

Her time pondering about what Asami is thinking runs out and Amon comes at her with his hands raised, in fists with his index and middle finger pointed forwards, ready to find her energy pathways and render her useless. But Korra is free now, with no more secrets left to protect. No hesitation in her movements, she jumps, twists through the air and brings her leg down on Amon in a rain of fire. The masked criminal abandons his attack and raises his arms to block the attack, grunting as the fire burns through the fabric of his sleeves. Korra immediately returns to a solid stance and slams her heel into the sidewalk, grinning when a column of earth shoots up from underneath the street and hits Amon in the ribs. Then, before she can continue her barrage of attacks, a bright flash of electricity lights up the dark street and she sees Asami, letting an unconscious Amon slip from her grip and fall to the ground.

Korra can’t help herself. “Wow,” she breathes, an impressed smile on her face. With a few big strides she’s at Asami’s side again. “That was amazing. You are amazing. You know, I knew that we would work well together.”

Asami raises an eyebrow, regarding her with some reluctance—the absence of any surprise from Korra must be a surprise in itself. “You knew?”

“I mean, I had my suspicions,” Korra says, her hand coming up to rub at her neck. “Especially when you quite literally gave me a shock, that first night in Spirits when you shook my hand.”

“Huh,” Asami answers. She’s looking at her feet, her hand clasped around her invalid arm, looking generally unsure. “I interpreted that differently, actually.” Korra quickly realizes her mistake. She closes the distance between the two of them and pulls at Asami’s arms, freeing up her hands and grabbing them with her own. Tenderly, she presses a kiss to Asami’s knuckles, knowing the gesture won’t carry the same spark but hoping it will, nonetheless.

“I can tell you that halfway through that night, I was in far too deep to know for sure what it was,” Korra admits. Her feelings towards Asami have been conflicted and tangled from the start, but they’ve been real and profound, too—Asami has to know that. “All I know is that I felt all kinds of sparks when you kissed me.” That brings a satisfied grin to Asami’s lips. “And that I’ve never seen you as just any criminal.”

“Why, because of my powers?” she asks, her tone slightly mocking. Korra just shakes her head.

“Because you’ve always been so kind to me.”

Asami’s eyes lighten up and finally she meets Korra’s gaze. Her mouth opens and closes again, and she settles for a soft smile. “Well, right back at you,” Asami says. Korra returns her smile and as she inches closer, presses a chaste kiss to her cheek.

“Come on,” she whispers through the night. “I’ll bring you home.” For once, Korra can’t find herself to care about the unconscious criminal at their feet, who she should probably be arresting. At the very least, she should be informing the chief, but it’s really hard to think about anyone else apart from the girl whose hands she’s holding.

It’s Asami who gets her back on track. “No,” she says, determined. “Amon isn’t out here for nothing.”

“What do you mean?” It’s taking everything Korra has to not just go, leave with Asami and never think about anything else again.

“He must have finished what we started last week, at the water plant outside the city,” Asami says, her eyes on the cracked mask as she thinks. “And now that he’s returned to the city…” She sighs. “It’s their endgame. I think it’s all going down tonight.”

“You mean…” Korra starts, giving Asami the chance to grimace crookedly.

“Yes. My teachers, Noatak, P’li—or rather, Amon, Red Lotus and Unalaq, they—” She pauses, a resigned sigh escaping her lips. “They have this crazy plan to basically take the entire city hostage.”

“Unalaq… I could feel he was up to no good,” Korra says, thinking about their confrontation in the lab.

“You know him?” Asami asks, and Korra nods.

“He’s my uncle,” she speaks through gritted teeth. Korra mentally runs through all her encounters with him and the other two, alongside Asami over the past month or so. The power outage, the weapon used by Red Lotus that had all but brought an entire building down, not to mention the vial with the luminescent purple liquid and the fight at the water treatment plant… Suddenly, it all fits together. “No way,” Korra breathes. “Three of your teachers, the most dangerous villains in the city… And they’re going to poison the city’s water supply.” Asami’s grim expression is all the confirmation she needs. Republic City has always known organized crime, but never on a scale such as this. Korra can feel her heart bounding in her chest. She has no clue where to go from here. “I guess those tuition prices aren’t the only criminal thing about Republic City University, huh?” is all that comes out.

Asami slaps her upper arm but that smile is back on her face, so Korra counts it as a win. The knowledge that she’s not in this alone anymore makes her breathe easy, the feeling of Asami’s hand sitting snugly in her own makes her feel calm in a way she’s never known before. “And those are just the ones I know of,” Asami says. “Thank the spirits I never have to go back there.”

“Yeah,” Korra agrees. It’s like touching Asami fills her with a renewed energy, warming her up from the base of her neck to the tips of her toes. “So,” she starts, raising an eyebrow. “Want to go defeat your teachers and my uncle, and save the city together?” Maybe Korra’s presence has the same effect on Asami as Asami’s presence has on her. All the alcohol seems to have dissipated from Asami’s system as she grins and stands up straight, solid and secure, all business. Softly, she squeezes Korra’s hand.

“It’s a date.”

***

Asami thinks that, as far as first dates go, this is actually pretty nice. It’s an absolute disaster according to the common rules of dating—Korra doesn’t exactly treat everyone with kindness, not when she’s just burned the sleeve off her uncle’s arm and buried P’li under a barrage of rocks. Then again there’s nothing wrong with her generosity, considering the way she dishes out attacks with equal ferocity and power on all of Asami’s teachers.

It’s Raava rather than Korra, Asami muses. The drizzling rain makes strands of brown hair cling to her face in a way that seems familiar, but the mask and the raw elements she commands with only the power of her will make Korra seem bigger than herself, somehow. It’s a difference of night and day with the bartender who makes jokes and listens and held Asami’s hand on their way home.

She’s different herself, too. Her arm recovered, their trip to the water plant combined with the adrenaline that started coursing through Asami’s veins has sobered her up and she is back to her focused self, alert to any sound or movement, electricity dancing around her fingers and her spine. Tonight carries a new sensation, something that makes all the difference compared to the person she was when she was here, last week. Freed, unburdened, is how Asami feels when she nails the uppercut on P’li’s jaw, knocking her head back and sending the explosion that was meant for her up, into the clouds. A strong wind follows the blast, but Asami is already in the middle of another movement. With the electricity thrumming under her skin, she delivers a charged blow to the villains middle, panting as she sees muscles cramp up and Red Lotus fall to the muddy ground. The moment her body makes impact with the earth, the sky above thunders threateningly, with flashes of lightning offsetting the streetlights as if to join in on the fight.

It’s two against two, but with Raava by her side Asami feels like they have the advantage. Unalaq’s power over water might be stronger than Korra’s, but the hero has no problem switching to and from any of the other elements. As for her fight against Red Lotus, Asami thinks she’s handling herself pretty well; she’s fast and her energy is still strong, whereas P’li’s explosions start coming at increasingly greater intervals. It feels like they could push on, push even harder and make that final attack that will turn fate to their hand; a feeling of euphoria tends to overtake her at the idea.

A water whip curls around her ankle and freezes solid, and Asami grits her teeth. No use thinking about that just yet—not while Unalaq and Red Lotus are still standing. Unalaq pulls on her leg but Asami has planted her feet firmly into the ground. The clouds roar above her, filling the sky with flaring streaks of lightning and bringing a smile to Asami’s face. She lifts her hands and reaches out, not just with her fingers but with her powers.

Another strand of water slithers around her other foot and chains her to the ground—the pressure grows and Asami knows she has to act fast to avoid being caught and dragged away by Unalaq. Her hands snap into fists the moment the connection is made—an electrical surge an infinite amount of times stronger than what she can generate herself flows through her body. It’s almost painful; Asami grunts as the sheer power threatens to burn her nerve ends, and lets her arms sink down.

“Raava,” she grits through her teeth. When Korra turns her head to look at her, her blue eyes widen in a mix of shock and recognition. She must really be something to behold, is the last thing Asami thinks before she lets go and the electricity discharges from her body, bursting outwards and hitting everything in a wide radius. Everything except for Korra, who has manipulated a slab of earth over herself for cover.

“Spirits,” she says as she emerges, after the jolt has passed. “I had no idea you were capable of something like that!” Asami looks at P’li and Unalaq, unconscious on the ground, the charred pine needles signifying the point of impact around her feet and the faint swirls of smoke, rising from her fingertips.

“Neither did I,” Asami whispers, awestruck. Her whole body aches, but she can only think about the force of that lightning strike… Wielding it felt amazing. Asami directs her full attention to the one person who had withstood it. “Nice reflexes, by the way.”

Korra grins. “Well, your warning could have been a little clearer—I thought you were going to attack from a distance, not hit this whole place with lightning.” Asami waves her comments away.

“It was close enough, right?” she says, returning the grin. That euphoric feeling is starting to creep back in, and this time Asami wants to let it. Amon is in the hands of the police, Unalaq and Red Lotus are both down. Besides, Korra is now standing in front of her, looking absolutely delectable even with the mask and it would be so easy to step closer, lay her hand on her cheek, close her eyes and lean in…

Their lips brush shortly; it’s all they’re allowed because P’li has started moving again. The sound of a sharp intake of breath has Asami’s body move on instinct; she jumps back right when energy ripples the air and combusts right where her head was, a second ago. Raava grunts as she withstands the explosion and starts creating a large ring of fire around Red Lotus, trapping her in a fiery vortex. It’s not enough—P’li has always been cunning and now she bends her back, aligning her face with the ground before letting loose another explosion. Chunks or earth fly in every direction and allow her to break free from the fire, but Raava is already moving again, arms opened wide as she uses her powers to catch them and throw them right back at P’li.

Korra’s powers are incredible. Of course Asami had seen Raava in action plenty times already, but this is the first time she’s not on the receiving end of it. Actually, while watching Korra bend water, earth, fire and air so effortlessly and in control, her volley of attacks flowing into each other seamlessly, she starts to wonder how she ever managed to get away before. And not once, but multiple times, Asami thinks with a complacent smile. Maybe Raava just has a soft spot for her.

From a little ways to the side, Unalaq groans. Asami wastes no time in crouching down next to him and pushing his face a little deeper into the layer of needles on the ground.

“Where are you keeping the poison,” she tells him, an order for him to answer to rather than a question. Unalaq sputters on the mud.

But before Asami can force an answer from the man’s lips, a painful jab is delivered to the place between her shoulder blade and her neck, and her arm uselessly falls to her side for the second time that night. A gutteral curse escapes her throat and Asami turns around, facing Amon and his cracked mask. “I thought we had gotten rid of you.”

“By leaving me in the hands of a beat cop?” Amon replies mockingly. “Don’t insult me. The chief might be the only one in the entire Republic City police force to pose a challenge to me.”

“Don’t forget about me,” Raava suddenly shouts, having abandoned Red Lotus to fly to Asami’s aid with a powerful gust of wind blasting from her hand palms. Amon flies backwards when her foot hits his chest, his ankles dragging tracks through the dirt.

Asami takes the reprieve to assess their situation critically. Unalaq is recovering, P’li is still raging and firing off explosions, and Amon has never looked stronger. But he’s a short range attacker, like herself. “Raava,” she mutters, as she squeezes the muscles in her incapacitated arm, a futile attempt to get some feeling back. Korra pauses to meet her gaze. “Let me handle him,” Asami finishes.

Her determination runs alongside her electricity as it courses through her veins. The force of her footsteps hitting the ground as she approaches Amon send thundering tremors through her legs. Above her, the sky rumbles and the rain intensifies, but Asami knows the storm is down here, contained in her bloodstream. Korra must see it too, because she lets her pass and turns her attention back to Red Lotus and Unalaq. Amon just keeps standing there, waiting.

It’s when there are only a handful of steps left to cross the distance, that Asami narrows her eyes and sends a powerful electrical current to her former teacher. Amon dodges it, and the next one, but the third one hits him square in the chest and sends him to his knees. “Give up, yet?” Asami asks. She tries to ball the fingers of her affected hand into a fist, but no such luck. Not yet.

“Never,” Amon grunts. He turns, mowing his leg around and kicking Asami’s feet from under her. Asami ignores the shock of the impact and grabs the hand that was meant to block the energy pathways in her leg, before releasing another powerful jolt. The masked villain lets out a subdued howl, but doesn’t go down. Instead, his other hand starts coming down and Asami tries to worm her way out of his grip, to no avail. An intense panic sets in and her movements grow more frantic, but before Amon can incapacitate any more of her limbs, Raava is there, a force of fire and water that washes him away.

“Thanks,” Asami breathes. Korra, as she molds the earth around Amon’s limbs to chain him to the ground, shoots her a small smile.

“No problem.”

Freed, Asami stands up and covers Raava’s back by running towards Unalaq, grabbing him by the collar and tasering him. He goes down easier than Amon, painful tears appearing in the corners of his eyes as he does. Asami can’t help but feel a twisted sort of glee at the sight—suddenly, she understands to appeal of becoming a villain. Fighting people, but especially fighting people and winning, is a feeling unlike anything she’s experienced before. She sees P’li move in her peripheral vision and jumps out of the way in the nick of time, feeling a rush of wind on her face as the raw energy flies past her and combusts as it hits a tree.

Raava has returned to her side. “Let’s take her down,” she says, eyes focusing in on Red Lotus as she breathes in again. The two of them dodge out of the way at exactly the same time and when Asami’s eyes meet Korra’s again, she sees the hero command a large amount of water that grows bigger with every drop of rain that connects to it, letting it swirl and rush around her. “You want to do it like the first time?”

She means the first time they ever met, Asami realizes. A smirk appears on her face as she remembers the way her electricity traveled through the water. The bubble of water explodes into multiple arms, reaching for Red Lotus. The woman is quick, but the water is quicker; one of them grabs P’li around her middle and the second it does, Asami sticks her hand in the stream that is dancing around Korra’s hands, and lets go.

With a groan Red Lotus feels to the ground and Asami grins. But the relief Asami feels at the small victory quickly turns to dread; Raava is still standing next to her, but she isn’t moving. It’s like invisible ropes have wrapped themselves around her body, trapping her. Even with no command over her muscles, it’s clear that she’s struggling. Asami’s mind shoots into overdrive—none of her teachers have a power like this, right? Is there a fourth person involved in their plans, someone she had never met? Then she sees that Unalaq has risen to his knees again and there’s a menacing grin on his smudged face, and the pieces slot into place. Unalaq controls liquids, Asami remembers. Any liquid. Even blood.

***

Korra knows that this was a possibility. She and Unalaq are similar, sharing not just a bloodline but the power over water, or anything else that streams. And she has considered the possibility of bending blood before, even though it had always seemed too cruel a way to subdue someone. Of course, Unalaq doesn’t exactly hold the same moral convictions as she does. The grin on his face tells Korra he actually rather enjoys his painful grip on her blood, holding her up awkwardly as she struggles to move a muscle.

They were so close. Amon chained to the ground, Red Lotus down too, and Unalaq… They were so close. All of a sudden, a heat of pure anger erupts from the base of Korra’s stomach, pushing all other feelings of fear and calm and cunning away. The power that resides within her stirs and festers, growing and slowly taking over her entire body. It struggles against Unalaq’s hold, but it’s winning. It’s Raava, Korra knows and a smile appears on her face as she revels in the feeling of the rain, rolling down her cheeks like tears and making her hair cling to her face. Raava emerges victorious, her eyes turn white, and Unalaq doesn’t stand a chance anymore.

With raw power strengthening her grip on the elements, Korra lets the wind carry her until she is in front of Unalaq. He tries to hold her off with similar water tentacles that Korra had used on Red Lotus earlier, but every time the strands come too close to Korra, they vaporize. Unalaq trips over a twig in his backwards shuffle towards the tree line and at the exact moment he hits the ground, Korra’s foot slams down, her arms rise and lift earthen shackles around his ankles and wrists.

“Raava!” Asami yells, her voice lined with an undercurrent of horror Korra has never heard from her before. It makes the hair in her neck stand up and she has to suppress the urge to freeze—Korra ducks, basically letting her body fall into the mud next to Unalaq. And rightfully so, she thinks as a tremendous wave of energy whizzes over her head and hits the trees.

And enormous explosion follows, together with the creaking sounds of multiple trees breaking down and hitting the ground. When Korra wipes the rain from her eyes she sees Red Lotus standing there, not unlike that night in the Blackstone building, with a bazooka-like gun in her hands.

Korra is immediately vigilant, moving quickly and randomly while watching both the gun and the woman’s third eye following her every move. Every now and then Red Lotus will fire, most of the time with the eye, which leads Korra to believe that she must be low on ammo with the gun. And every time she does, Korra uses the speed and the power granted to her by Raava to avoid getting hit. Her eye falls on a small movement behind Red Lotus; it’s Asami, who’s using the villain’s wild offence to sneak up on her. Korra tries to urge her on with just a piercing gaze, hoping it conveys her plan, somehow. All she needs is an opening.

It’s like Asami just knows. Her timing is impeccable; right before Red Lotus can fire off another explosion, she kicks at her legs with a powerful swing of one of her own, not causing the woman to fall but making her stumble nonetheless as the explosion hits a tree behind Korra. Korra is already in the middle of her retaliation. She’d been waiting to do this; the small rock she’d just kicked up from the ground is suspended in the air, no bigger than a coin, and Korra uses the time granted to her by Asami to grab onto it with her power and send it flying towards Red Lotus.

It hits the third eye in her forehead with the most satisfying thud, before the woman collapses on herself and falls into the mud, too. Korra stops running and leans forward, panting heavily as she supports her weight with her hands on her knees. The exertion has her feeling dirty, hot and sweaty, so the rain on her back is a nice, cool reprieve. Asami comes up to her and pats her shoulder.

“Nice shot, Raava,” she says, sounding as happy as Korra feels. “I’m impressed.”

“Well, yeah,” she replies as she straightens up again. “I’m still Republic City’s number one hero. I’ve got a reputation to live up to.” Asami cups her face without warning, making Korra still in her movements when she wipes at some dirt below Korra’s eye. She must be covered with it by now. “Besides,” Korra continues, smiling crookedly. “It’s our first date. Of course I’d bring my A game.” Asami bursts out laughing, shaking her head lightly before pressing a kiss to the cheek that she’s holding.

“I don’t know if it’s the fact that we could have died,” she says, sounding out of breath. “But I could really kiss you right now.” A wide grin erupts on Korra’s face as a kaleidoscope of butterflies bursts into life in her stomach.

“Welcome to the life of a hero,” she mutters as she pulls Asami in by the waist and does what any hero does after saving the city: she kisses the girl, softly, slowly and deeply. When they break apart, Korra keeps Asami close, taking a second to just observe the curve of her mouth, her perfect cheekbones and her eyes, that seem to shine even in the dark of the night. “I guess we should call the police now,” Korra mutters, before resting her head on Asami’s shoulder. It must be a sign that she’s the perfect height for it. “All I want to do is get out of here.”

“Then let’s do that,” Asami answers as she rubs her back.

It takes a considerable amount of power to break apart from Asami, but Korra has one thing left to do before she can go. She walks over to where Red Lotus lies, her clothes and her long braid muddied and drenched to the bone. Korra gets into a low stance, ready to shackle her in the same way she did Amon and Unalaq, but she stops herself. The villain doesn’t exactly look comfortable, laying on one arm and with her legs bended over each other. Korra decides to take a note from her favorite criminal and readjusts her form, before rising stone bands from the earth that cover her wrists, ankles and forehead. Then her eye falls on the gun, lying beside her. “I’ve been shot at before, but never quite like that,” Korra says. “What on earth is this thing?”

“Remember that backpack I gave you?” Asami answers, smiling wryly. The memory of the clear sound those shiny black cubes made when jostled about in Asami’s black backpack shoots through Korra’s head, and she nods. “Those pallets are ceramic uranium oxide. Fuel for powerful blasts of energy, basically. This is the gun that shoots them.” Korra does a double take.

Uranium?” she exclaims with wide eyes. “She shot that at me. I was hit with that, back in the Blackstone building.” Asami chuckles, putting her arm around Korra’s waist in a snug hold.

“Don’t worry,” she tells Korra. “It’s just energy, extracted from uranium in a similar way of how nuclear energy is obtained. The blast it produces is powerful, but there is no radiation involved.”

“You’re sure?” Korra asks, but Asami’s relaxed expression already tells her what she needs to know.

“Yeah,” Asami confirms, smiling. “You’re safe.”

When chief Beifong and a whole army of police cars arrive, Korra takes Asami back to the bar. It’s the middle of the night, but it’s the best place to go to. She doesn’t feel like explaining everything to Bolin back home and she needs her well-earned post-fight care. Maybe most of all, she needs some more time with Asami.

Feeling has returned to Asami’s arm by the time they get there and they haven’t been slumped in their regular booth for more than five minutes when she taps Korra on the shoulder and says: “Uh, this is awkward, but I’m bleeding all over your leather seats.” She has pushed up the sleeve of her black hoodie to reveal a nasty looking gash that runs from halfway down her underarm to her wrist and is oozing blood.

Korra curses under her breath and grabs a hold of Asami’s arm, turning it to the light to get a better look. “Let’s get that bandaged up,” she mutters as she slides out of the booth and pulls Asami along to the back room. Korra pulls out her first aid kit, grabbing a clean cloth instead of the dirty, bloodied one she always uses for herself, and gets to work.

It’s kind of nice, being able to share her post-battle routine with Asami. Of course Bolin has been by her side plenty of times, supplying her with whiskey and clean bandages, but it feels different with Asami. More profound, somehow, maybe because she has experienced the same hardships. It’s different, too; Korra foregoes the alcohol this time and settles for a quiet conversation, a lot like how they’d talked at the very beginning of this night, just after closing. It feels an eternity ago.

“So,” Asami asks as she cleans a cut above Korra’s eyebrow. “What made you decide to call yourself Raava? I’ve always wondered.” Korra smiles—it’s a nice story, actually, one that she never gets to tell.

“A long time ago, when the spirits still roamed the earth, there was a benevolent spirit that protected Yue Bay,” Korra tells her, forgetting the feeling of the warm, wet cloth against her forehead as she sees it before her mind’s eye: the forest surrounding the bay, ages before Republic City was founded, and the grand white spirit that roams there, the size of sky. A smile grows around her lips. “I like to think I bear some resemblance to her.”

Asami’s hand has stilled. “That’s beautiful,” she mutters, thoughtfully. “You’ve really considered this.” Korra just shrugs.

“And you?” she asks. “Ever thought about a moniker?” From the look on Asami’s face—pure shock and a little horror—Korra can tell she never has. “What about Lightning?”

“No way,” Asami scoffs, grinning.

“Pikachu?” Korra continues, rubbing on her chin in mock thought. “Or Sparky? Just tell me what feels right.”

Asami just laughs in exasperation and hits her on her shoulder, her slap sending no pain but a barely noticeable electrical shock through Korra’s arm. “If you don’t stop right now I’m turning back to the dark side,” she tells her, but her smile offsets the statement. This is the way it was supposed to be, Korra realizes. Asami Sato as a hero, not a criminal. The silence hangs heavy in the air between them, getting charged with the memory of previous intimacy and the promise of more. Korra is leaning forward, reveling in the slowness of it and how she has all the time in the world to align their faces perfectly, lean in, and…

The doorbell jingles, signifying someone entering the bar and making Korra freeze up. With a soft groan, she lets her face fall against Asami’s shoulder once again, kissing her cheek chastely where she passes it.

Bolin’s head pops up in the doorway, obviously surprised at seeing them here in the dead of night. Or maybe it’s morning already; Korra has no idea, anymore. “Bolin,” she greets him, weakly. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m here to meet with our supplier, what are you doing here?” His eyes eagerly shoot between her and Asami, the bloodstained bandages all over the floor of the back room and their muddied clothes.

“It’s a long story,” Korra admits, exchanging a meaningful glance with Asami. And it has been a long story, she thinks, as the bar gets bathed in the light of the early morning sun. But somehow, it feels as if they’re only at the beginning of it.