It was only a few days after they'd left for the spirit world, after almost everything had changed, when Korra realized that she had known Asami before.
I mean, of course she knew Asami before- she’d known Asami for years, known how headstrong she was while also being soft in the right moments, how she was always there to stick up for herself and for what was right, how her brilliant mind swirled with different inventions and ideas and dreams of making the world a better place.
She knew Asami’s gentle green eyes, a liquid jade that would always calm her down, always bring her back to earth when Korra was writhing in anger about all the things that needed fixing, and all the people who thought they could fix it but just threw everything farther and farther out of balance. She knew Asami’s hair, always shining and perfectly placed, in a sort of effortless way that Korra never really understood- Korra couldn’t really care less what her hair looked like, was always fumbling to tie it into some sort of presentable configuration, usually with multiple ponytails.
After Korra was injured, when everything inside her was spilled onto the dusty rocks and everyone walked away to save the world in her place, Asami stayed- she pinned Korra’s hair out of her eyes, and made her look as effortlessly beautiful as everything Asami created. And when Asami’s gentle fingers traced through her hair, Korra felt this slight murmuring in the pit of her stomach that she had known this before.
Of course, then she left and built up towering walls high around herself.
When Korra despondently wheeled her way into the healing hut months after arriving, Katara recognized her face, could feel everything she was feeling. She’d seen it before, countless times, in Aang. And when Korra admitted “I’m tired, Katara, I’m so tired,” Katara remembered just how tired Aang used to be- his airy spirit never turned brittle, but it did wear away battle after battle, expectation after expectation. Katara had seen how the poison of expectation that could eat away at the Avatar, at this soul that she loves with all of her being; how Aang grew from a carefree child to a tired man, with the same blank sadness behind his eyes. So Katara tried something new. She tried to pour love into Korra like it was water, in the same ways she used to do for Aang. She knows what Korra’s soul needs.
“Korra, I know you feel alone right now. But you’re not the first Avatar that’s had to overcome great suffering.”
Katara kneels at her feet, looks her in the eyes. I have loved you, in every way I could, for as long as I have known you. I’ve done this before. If I need to heal you now, then that is what I’ll do. I’ll build you back up again.
Korra remembers that when Katara looked her in the eyes at her lowest point, something in Korra started to glow from the inside out- a dull murmur of something deep. Like her past lives were aching inside her. That’s ridiculous. I’ve lost all of my connections to the past Avatars.
After leaving the healing hut, Korra went back up to her room, sat on her musty bed and felt about as useless as she always felt. But for some reason today was different- she still felt that glowing in the pit of her stomach that always grew whenever Katara spoke to her, whenever Katara believed in her- the same feeling she felt when Asami touched her shoulder on the dock before she left Republic City and offered to come with her.
While looking at the pile of letters stacked high on her nightstand and feeling sorry for herself was practically a nightly ritual at this point, today Korra felt a different impulse. Ha, an Avatar instinct. Haven’t felt that in a while. She reached for the pile on her nightstand to read the creased pages of Asami’s letters, the paper worn from the amount of times she’d opened the envelope and unfolded the paper, just to scrunch it back into its envelope again.
Dear Korra. I miss you. It’s not the same in Republic City without you.
That glowy feeling was back, making a mess of her insides. This feeling doesn’t mean anything. I guess I’m just not used to people believing in me anymore. Still, she picked up a pen.
The first time Katara met Asami was at the wedding on Air Temple Island- Katara didn’t really know the silly inventor Verrick or his assistant, but all her children were together and Kya convinced her to make the trip.
Katara noticed the woman in the red dress, always looking towards Korra like she was the center of her gravity, how Korra relaxed in her presence. She was beautiful, wide-eyed. Steady. She reminded Katara of herself when she was young, and instantly Katara knew what this meant. She stood up and walked over.
“So, you’re the one who gets to love the Avatar now.”
Asami made her way over to where Korra was sitting on the staircase, looking out at the ashy clouds sinking Republic City into darkness. She hesitated, just for a second, before taking a deep breath and walking towards her, Katara’s words in the pit of her stomach.
I don’t really know what I’m doing. I’ve always loved her- I’m sure she knows that. How can she not, when all I’m thinking about is how I can be there for her, when I can make her laugh, when I can touch her.
Asami sat down.
When Asami’s eyes close, and tears gently leak out while they’re sitting on the steps looking over the water- when Korra thinks I have never felt safer with anyone than with you- that’s when she starts to realize. That she has felt this safe, once. When she was home, when she was barely hanging on. When she was lying in the familiar walls of the healing hut that breached the icy weather of the South Pole, and Katara kept sitting by her side. Like a placeholder. Like she needed to fill in, to stand by Korra until someone else did.
Katara and Asami were both like a soothing wave, pulling Korra under, reminding her who she is. And Korra doesn’t remember knowing anyone else who could do that to her. It’s like her spirit knows.
And then Asami takes her hand. And Korra feels the glow, so strong that it’s ready to spill out of her. And she knows that this isn’t just a reaction to someone believing in her; it’s something much, much deeper.
They go to the spirit world- for Korra, everything always feels a little different in the spirit world, a little more charged, a little lighter. This time, the sensation feels like it’s ripping her open- but she isn’t sure if that’s because she’s here after such an exhausting few days, or if it’s because Asami is still holding her hand.
There are no demons to fight anymore- well, there most absolutely, definitely are, but they don’t seem as scary anymore. Not when Korra feels like she’s running on autopilot right now, like holding Asami’s hand feels like the most effortless act in the entirety of her existence, in all of her existences.
They’ve been in the spirit world for a week, and Korra feels the safest and the freest she ever has- like all the weight of being the Avatar isn’t so bad. Her walls are gone- Katara breached them, made parts of them start crumbing, cracking at the edges. And now, she realizes that Asami is the same- in the way she is patient with her, cares for her. Asami doesn’t push her, but lets her push herself, and is always a steady hand to guide her back to the ground. Korra doesn’t know what love is and isn’t, but knows that when Asami touches her, she feels that glowing, that lurch deep within her.
They’re sitting in the shade of a tree this afternoon, the spirits whirring around them. Korra has always had a hard time sitting still- that’s one of the things they’re working on during this vacation, Korra learning to relax and Asami trying to pin her into place. Asami was leaning at the base of the tree, with Korra lying on the ground, her head begrudgingly in Asami’s lap and her eyes closed.
Asami shifted and Korra opened her eyes- and Asami looked down, that jade gaze that Korra could get lost in.
“So, I’ve been thinking.”
Korra rolled her eyes.
“You’re always thinking. What great innovation have you come up with this time?”
Asami’s eyes lit up and her lips curved up into a soft smile- the shiny rouge reflecting the hazy sunlight from above. She is perfect.
“Hmm, not quite about an invention to further humanity. I think I’ve done enough of that for the time being. More about right now, about us, about something Katara said.”
Korra felt heat rise to her cheeks, but not before the glowing magic in her stomach jolted forward again. This is telling me something. I know it.
“Oh, yeah? What did Katara say?”
“It was just before we left. At the wedding. She… she said I was the one who gets to love the Avatar now. And that she can tell why. I guess your past lives sort of had a type.” Asami smirked. “But- it did give me the courage. To come away with you. And I guess what I’m trying to say is that… I do love you. A lot. And I don’t know what you’re thinking or feeling, but I guess you should know.”
Korra had never seen Asami so unsure before- that was the first thing she thought after Asami closed her mouth, instead of any surprise or shock. She’d spent her life trusting her so-called Avatar instincts, until she was torn away from her past lives and had to learn to trust herself- and now, both of those impulses were screaming for action when she leaned up and placed her lips on Asami’s.
Warmth erupted through her body, out of her fingertips, out of every pore- this wasn’t the Avatar state, this was something deeper. It was like there was something torn in her, something broken that had gotten stitched up- and she had fixed it herself. She had tunnel vision, her head was spinning- and then they were back. That tether than always pulled at her, that had been there since the day she’d lost her bending years ago and met Aang’s spirit for the first time. My past lives. They’re back.
She pulled her mouth away and met Asami’s eyes in the soft light of the spirit-filled sky. In them, she saw a flash of so many other sets of eyes, gazing at her with admiration. She remembered Katara’s loving gaze when she was first injured, how it touched something deep in her. How she’d always known Asami could bring out this feeling in her. Aang. He was always here. And now I get to love someone, too.