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Where the Snow Takes Us

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Kai, you’re going to owe me big for this . Korra ran towards flag number 12 in front of the ski school, as best as one could in ski boots. At the end of her one half-day of the week, Kai had stormed over to her locker, buzzing with excitement. He nearly wiggled out of his boots as he told her he’d secured a second round interview with the Heli-Ski Tour shop down the road. ‘I’m going to be a guiiiiiiiide!’ He sang as he stomped around. His elation was contagious up until the moment he told her sheepishly that the interview was… right now. And that he had a private adult ski lesson scheduled… also right now.

 

He begged her to cover for him. ‘It’s just supposed to be a guided tour around the area, anyway. You won’t have to teach her anything! Just show her around!’ Korra hemmed and hawed and made a show of considering the inconvenience. Not that she’d ever say no to Kai. It was just nice to see him grovel from time to time. She crossed her arms and waited for his coup de gras -- a not-quite-adorable but definitely hilarious pout coupled with his best attempt at big puppy dog eyes. How does that ever work on Jinora, seriously? She laughed out loud and gave in, agreeing to cover his ski lesson for the afternoon. He’d better get that job .

 

Korra despised teaching adult skiers. Kids were so much easier . Mostly because they listened. Kind of. If they didn’t, a dash of creative flair and a game or two would trick them into skiing properly. And they lit up magically whenever they overcame a task, like round-cheeked little light bulbs. Korra had been told she had a special way with the younger students, but it really wasn’t her. Adults were the real trouble children, stubborn and unwilling to listen. They all came packaged with a complex set of preconceived notions about their own skiing and how to ski. It was truly not her fault that any lesson with a student older than seven took twice as long. Korra was not looking forward to this. 

 

Her mind traveled to her half-eaten sandwich, sitting forlorn in her locker instead of in her roiling stomach, where it belonged. I’m going to make him buy me lunch. Maybe one of those giant hamburgers ... She grinned at the promise as she huffed over to flag number 12, where a woman in fitted red ski pants fidgeted with her skis. Oh great , Korra thought to herself as she noticed the European style pants and fashionable cut of the black and crimson ski jacket. A prissy, rich, Euro skier. How fun.

 

“Hi, I’m Korra.” She barked, trying to sound chipper as she closed the last two strides to the flag. She extended a hand to the woman, who turned in surprise.

 

“I’m Asami.” Asami shook her proffered hand and Korra couldn’t help but notice how soft her skin was, a stark contrast to the strength of her handshake. They dropped their hands and Korra smiled, focused on seeming like she genuinely wanted to be here. Asami, for her part, remained rather confused.

 

“Nice to meet you, Asami. I’m so sorry for the delay; I’ll be your instructor today.”

 

“Oh.” Asami lifted her goggles onto her helmet and Korra was struck by the piercing green that looked back at her. “I thought my instructor was supposed to be…” Asami slipped her phone out of a jacket pocket and glanced at it. “... Kai?”

 

“Right. Yeah.” Korra scratched at her head, fiddling with the strap on the back of her helmet. “Kai is out sick today and we’ve had to shuffle some things around to cover his lessons. My apologies for any inconvenience.”

 

Asami smiled and Korra released a breath of relief. Maybe it won’t be so bad? She has a nice smile . “No problem at all. Korra, was it?”

 

Korra nodded and grinned back, feeling a little less like she had to fake it this time. “You got it.”

 

“Nice to meet you, Korra.”

 

“Shall we get going? Don’t want to waste any more of your time!” Korra gestured to the slopes and Asami followed, skis in hand.

 

Once settled on a chairlift, Korra launched into her standard new student interview. “What’s your assessment of your own ski level?”

 

“Hm.” Asami paused to think for a moment. “I can get down almost any hill, but there’s significant room for improvement. On most blues and blacks, I can hang on to the fundamentals and keep form but honestly it falls apart in steeper terrain or on moguls.”

 

Cut and dry, but informative. Self-aware even. Hm. Korra was pleasantly surprised. “Is there anything in particular that you’re looking to work on today?”

 

“Today? No, not really.” Oh?

 

Well at least she was honest. “Oh.” Kai had mentioned something about not having to teach… “Won’t be much of a lesson then, will it?”

 

Asami laughed and Korra found herself grinning, pleased that her humor was well received. “I guess not.” The green-eyed woman chuckled. “Today I mainly want to see a bit of the mountain, get an insider’s perspective, if you will. There’ll be plenty more time for actual ski lessons later in the season.”

 

“Later in the season?” Korra couldn’t help her curiosity. The longest any of her students stuck around was for a week or two. “Are you new to the area?”

 

“Sort of.” Asami adjusted her ski poles as she spoke. “I’m just here for the ski season, renting a place on the Blackcomb side. This is my first week here and I thought it would be a good idea to get to know the area right away. What better way to see the mountain than with someone who’s required to know it inside and out?” She turned her head to Korra and smiled again.

 

“Wow. That sounds like a dream. Move to a ski resort for the winter and ski all day every day?” Korra nodded appreciatively.

 

Asami barked out a laugh. “I wish! No, I’ll be working during the day. I’ll get the weekends and hopefully a few extra days here and there…” Then Asami cocked her head at Korra. “Isn’t that what you do though? Ski all day every day? You’re the one living the dream.”

 

Korra chortled back, cringing at the twinge of darkness that tainted her laugh. “I guess you’re right.” She shook her head, dodging the reminders of the dream she’d once had.

 

“Any part of the mountain you’re interested in getting to today?” Korra changed the subject, not wanting to dwell.

 

Asami shrugged. “How about you just show me your favorite spots?”

 

That livened Korra right up. An afternoon ‘lesson’ spent wandering around the mountain searching for leftover fresh snow? Hell yes. A spark of excitement pushed laughter out of her before she could contain it. But. Safety first.

 

“Well, first let’s do a couple of runs around here, yeah? This might not be a formal lesson, but I’d like to get an idea of how you ski before I take you frolicking around.” She chuckled and Asami nodded, returning her laugh.

 

“A test before a frolick?” Asami smirked and the playfulness in her tone caught Korra by surprise. “Sounds fun.” She wasn’t flirting, was she?

 

Nah. Korra shook the thought away as they exited the lift and she guided them to one of the blue slopes that would take them back to the village. Easy to start. She observed Asami as they flew down to the base. Her assessment was spot on: near perfect form on the intermediate terrain, maybe could do with a few adjustments but nothing major. And the woman loved her speed. Korra couldn’t help but grin. This is going to be a fun afternoon.  

 

They skidded to a stop across from the ski school and Asami turned back to her, cheeks flushed from the cold and beaming. “How’d I do?” She said breathlessly through her smile. It really was a nice smile. 

 

“I think you know.” Korra winked behind her goggles. Okay, don’t flirt back you fool. “Let’s up the ante!” Korra smirked. They took the Whistler gondola this time, headed higher up the mountain to access a few single diamonds that Korra could use to get them to some of the frontside bowls.

 

Asami held her own, as promised. She slowed on the steeps and the moguls and Korra came up with a half dozen ideas for her to improve but kept them to herself. For later . Instead she guided them across Whistler’s back bowls—whatever was open this early in the season—winding in and out of glades to catch patches of leftover powder. 

 

Conversation came easy on their rides up and they drove hard on every run down. Asami pushed herself through areas clearly beyond her comfort zone and Korra was impressed at her determination to improve and to have fun doing it. Korra found herself thoroughly enjoying the ‘lesson’ despite her earlier apprehension. She led them to her favorite runs across the top half of Whistler mountain and around 3:30pm landed them at the base of Peak Express.

 

“How’re you feeling?” Korra asked. “If you’re up for it, I can get us on the last chair up to the peak look-out. No one else there to spoil the view. But then it’s a long ski back to base. I do not recommend it if you’re tired.”

 

Asami didn’t even hesitate. “Hell yes.” Korra grinned. This was her favorite thing to do. She knew almost all the Ski Patrol folks that’d be closing up for the day and she’d frequently tag along with them on their last ride up to close the lifts and slopes. God, she loved having an in with Tenzin.

 

“Jinora!” Korra called out to Tenzin’s daughter as she approached in her red patrol jacket. Evidently, she was on shift to close the mountain from the peak down. This early in the season, few runs were open up top, which meant purely difficult terrain that needed to be swept and cleared. Korra had seen enough to know Asami could handle it.

 

“Hey Korra!” Jinora called back brightly and she skied over. “You got an adult lesson?? That’s unlike you.” The incredulousness was apparent in her voice and Korra cringed. Not in front of the clients...  

 

“You can thank Kai and his cold for that.” Korra bit back, hoping Jinora would catch her hint. 

 

Mercifully she nodded solemnly while side-eyeing Korra’s student. “Right. Yes. He’s, uh, starting to feel better this afternoon.” She was a horrible liar.

 

Korra rolled her eyes behind her goggles. “When are you heading up?” She asked, urging the conversation out of dangerous territory.

 

Jinora glanced down at her watch. “‘Bout five minutes.”

 

Yes! “Can we head up with you on the last chair?” 

 

“Um.” Jinora glanced over at Asami. “I’m not allowed to take guests up on last chair.”

 

Oh. Right. Korra was still technically working. And despite the fun they’d had, Asami was still technically a student. “Well…” the instructor hummed in thought. “Nothing’s stopping us from being on the second to last chair, right?” She wiggled her eyebrows whimsically, resigned to the fact that her antics would be lost behind her goggles. Man she hated not being able to make faces at people.

 

“Haha, I guess not. Stick around for a few and you two can get on right before me.” Jinora smiled.

 

“Whoo!” Korra pumped a fist in the air and turned to a patiently smiling Asami. “ This is my real favorite.” She introduced Jinora and Asami and they chatted amiably until it was time to go.

 

As soon as they’d sat down on the chair in front of Jinora, Asami asked, “Kai’s not actually sick, is he?”

 

Korra sputtered out an incredulous laugh and racked her brain for a way to explain herself out of the question. Her brain came up with nothing. No way but the right way… she sighed and shrugged. “Caught.” 

 

To her surprise, Asami laughed heartily. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell. I doubt Kai would have been as much fun as you were today.”

 

Okay, this woman can’t be flirting with me. “He’s a pretty cool kid, actually. Great skier. Not as cool as me, of course.” Don’t you dare flirt back, Korra

 

Asami smiled back at her. “Is he friends with Jinora?”

 

“They’re together, actually.” Korra corrected. “Been dating for a while, practically high school sweethearts.” 

 

“Aw. That’s cute!” Her voice turned up on the word ‘cute’ and Korra found it unexpectedly endearing. Seriously Korra, no. “How do you know them?” Asami asked.

 

“Oh, Jinora’s dad, Tenzin, and my dad go way back. Tenzin runs the Ski Patrol for Whistler-Blackcomb. I’ve known him and his family since I was a little tyke; skiing straight downhill without knowing how to stop.”

 

Asami belly-laughed and Korra felt more than flattered. “It’s wonderful you have a sort of family here.”

 

Korra detected a little sadness in her tone and her instincts to cheer up kicked in automatically. She dove into a detailed account of her favorite times with Tenzin’s family and how they all involved playing with the Ski Patrol puppies they often fostered for training. That never failed to draw a smile.

 

Asami seemed interested and, without conscious thought, Korra found herself slipping into descriptions of her own life and family. She normally lived in Toronto, but had been instructing in Whistler for the last three winter seasons. She hadn’t been teaching long, but as a gifted skier Tenzin had encouraged her to seek out instructing. Her parents lived in the north, where she grew up, and had encouraged her connection to Tenzin and his family. 

 

It was absurdly easy to talk to this woman. She normally never talked so much about herself, especially during a paid lesson, but Asami was a kind listener and Korra barely noticed as she almost spat out her whole life story. She left a few of the darker bits out. No need to sour the mood. 

 

As her thoughts began to turn to those difficult years in her life, she decided to change the subject. “How about you, Asami? Where are you from?”

 

“I live in New York, normally.” 

 

“Oh my god. I’ve always wanted to visit!” Korra bounced a bit in her seat, wobbling the chair on its cable. “Is it like it is in the movies??”

 

“Not at all.” Asami teased. “Since you’re familiar with Toronto… I’d say ‘movie’ New York is like Toronto - a bustling city where people are trendy, knowledgeable, and well-dressed. Real life New York is like a dirtier, less walkable, noisier version of Toronto. With more people, more tourists, and more subways.” She paused and tilted her head. “Except for Times Square. That part is just like in the movies.”

 

Korra chortled. “You don’t make it sound all that appealing.”

 

“Honestly?” Asami looked at her solemnly. Or, what Korra thought was solemnly because there was no way to tell behind those damned reflective ski goggles. “It isn’t all that appealing to me. I like the city; don’t get me wrong. Everything you want and more than you can imagine is just within reach. It’s a really powerful feeling. But I… think I’d like to end up somewhere with a little more… room to breathe.” As she finished, Asami looked around them and took a deep breath. “I can’t imagine anything better than a place like this.”

 

“So, what keeps you there?” Korra blurted. The words were out before she realized they might be overtly rude.

 

Asami responded with a thin-lipped smile. “Work. Obligations. Life, really.”

 

That sounded sadder than Korra wanted it to be. “Where do you work?”

 

“Future Industries.” Asami answered quietly.

 

“Oh super cool! What do you do there?”

 

“I was, uh, an engineer.” 

 

“Was? What happened?” Korra should probably have paid attention to how the engineer’s tone softened wistfully but she was too curious to notice.

 

“Um…” Asami hesitated and stared hard at the tips of her skis. “I guess you could call it an… unexpected promotion.”

 

“Oh.” Korra caught the melancholy in her voice that time. That sounded… complicated. She was beyond curious now, but didn’t want to trample on this poor woman’s emotions by prying. She could take a hint. “Well, Whistler is a great place to be for a few months. We have lots of room to breathe.” Korra offered and smiled earnestly.

 

Asami gave her a weak smile in return but kept her gaze focused on the tips of her skis. Korra’s mind churned with guilt for bringing up the unsettling topic. Just as she geared up to launch into a ramble about the stunning view at the peak, Asami continued.

 

“I’m, uh, actually the CEO. Now I am. I mean. I’ve recently taken over the company.” She said quietly.

 

“Woah.” Korra turned to her in shock. How old are you?  

 

“I wasn’t supposed to… but my father passed away about a year ago and he left everything to me. I went from being an engineering supervisor to President of the board of directors overnight.”

 

“Wow.” 

 

“It was the craziest year of my life. I got thrown into business school and I had to watch the CEO they appointed make every wrong decision in the book. And I mean literally. I would read about it in class one day and the next, there the CEO was, doing exactly what all my professors said not to do.”

 

Korra bit her tongue, too enthralled by the story to risk stopping it with her big mouth.

 

“After engineering school, business seemed… easy? I mean, not actually easy, but… it’s not differential equations you know? The numbers kind of speak for themselves. And you have people, advisors, to advise on the people part of things. So after a few months of that idiot trashing our stock, I exercised my majority share on the board and fired his ass.” Korra laughed out loud at the unexpected crassness. From the CEO of Future Industries. Damn .

 

Asami chuckled back and continued her story. “The man was livid. Said I should try to do a better job than him and then stormed out of the meeting. It was like a movie scene, I swear. To my surprise the board decided his last idea wasn’t his worst one. They named me CEO while they searched for someone new. It’s been nearly half a year and I honestly can’t say they’ve been trying very hard. So that’s how I um, ‘got promoted.’” After a pause, Asami shook her head, lifting a gloved hand to her helmet in near disbelief. “I’m sorry for dumping all that on you. I don’t know why I started babbling on like that. My apologies.”

 

“No, no, it’s alright!” Korra rushed to appease. “Honestly, your story is fascinating. Thank you for telling me. I’m sorry about your father. Sounds like you’ve been through hell and back.”

 

Asami smiled, and this time it felt realer. “Thanks. You must be some sort of magician to get me talking like this; I’m not normally so open.”

 

Korra shrugged off the compliment. “It’s not me. I’ll bet you it’s all this extra air you’re not used to having in the city.” She winked. Then she remembered she was wearing goggles. Sigh.

 

Asami laughed again at her joke. I could get used to being considered this funny .

 

“We’re almost there.” Korra said as she lifted the safety bar up. “This is one of my favorite views. But we only have a few minutes because we need to get down before Jinora. Ski Patrol needs to be the last one down.”

 

“Got it.” Asami nodded.

 

“This early in the season, not all the runs are open so we’re either going to have to take the long way around or the single diamond in Whistler bowl. None of my favorite doubles are open yet, unfortunately. They usually get good in early January. Are you feeling a longer, slower black for the way down or you got another steeper run in ya?”

 

“I think I know what you’d prefer.” Asami said coyly.

 

Korra barked out a laugh. “That’s not what I’m asking. You’re the client, remember?”

 

“Like I said, ‘show me your favorites.’ That means we do what you’d prefer today.” Asami said decisively.

 

Korra couldn’t help but grin. Then again... safety first. “Agreed. But pushing yourself on a tough slope at the end of a ski day is a recipe for injury. So we won’t go down the double diamond unless you’re certain you’re not tired.”

 

“That’s fair...” Asami seemed to think it over. “Is it a mogul run?”

 

“There’s an area that’s pretty clear of them, but it’s on the steeper side.”

 

“Let’s do it.” Asami grinned mischievously as they got off the chair and gasped as she took in her surroundings. “Wow... This is gorgeous!”

 

“Right?!” Korra said as they skated skied to the look-out. “Want me to get a photo of you?”

 

Asami was already fumbling with her jacket to pull out her phone. She took a few panoramas but when she turned back to Korra she paused. “No. Get over here and let’s take one together! You’ve been an incredible guide today and I’d rather remember that than have a picture of me all alone at this beautiful place.”

 

Korra was surprised but she obliged and skied over to Asami. They lifted their goggles from their faces and posed happily for a selfie that only caught a fraction of the view. Their smiles shone, though. 

 

“We look pretty nice!” Asami said approvingly as she scanned the picture. Then, unexpectedly, “Wow Korra, you have gorgeous eyes.” 

 

The unwarranted compliment nearly bowled Korra over and she felt heat rise to her cheeks. Asami appeared to think nothing of it as she tucked her phone away and skied over to her instructor. “Um, thanks?” Korra said awkwardly.

 

Asami just smiled back before pulling her neck warmer over her mouth in preparation for their long ski back down to the base. “Ready when you are!” She nodded to Korra who was still recovering, shaken by the effect Asami’s comment had had on her.

 

They took few breaks on their way down, only stopping to turn back and appreciate some of the steeper portions they’d tackled. When they finally pulled up at the ski school, Asami turned breathlessly to Korra. “You weren’t kidding; that’s one helluva run!”

 

“It is! Best cardio workout I can think up; doing that.” Korra grinned, also a little winded. “I try to do it at the end of every ski day.”

 

Asami smiled, “Then you are definitely living the dream.”

 

“You could say that…” Korra shrugged jovially. “So. Are you going to schedule any more lessons for the season or take what you saw today and run with it?”

 

“I…” Asami smirked. “... may have already done that.”

 

“Oh?” Korra raised her eyebrows. This time she lifted her goggles so she could actually express something with her face.

 

“I want to take the opportunity to learn as much as I can while I’m here. So I booked a lesson once a week for the whole season.” Asami looked a little shy and Korra couldn't fathom why.

 

“That’s awesome!” Korra said excitedly.

 

“I’m really looking forward to it.” Asami smiled. “Thanks for a wonderful afternoon.” She extended a hand to Korra. “Hopefully we’ll run into each other again.” 

 

Korra slipped off her glove and shook Asami’s hand. “I’m sure we will! I had a great time this afternoon too. If you’re looking for any recommendations beyond the tourist traps around the base, come find me.” She grinned.

 

“I’ll keep that in mind, thank you.” Asami said as she took off her helmet. Korra stared despite herself, mouth slightly agape. That raven hair had no right to look so splendid after a day of being stuffed into a helmet. It had no business reflecting the sunlight so dazzlingly and swooshing so silkily when Asami shook it out with her fingers. Wow. Only when Asami’s curls cascaded loosely around her face did Korra comprehend how striking this woman was. From her lightly painted eyes (and who puts on makeup to ski, really?) to her curved full lips and her jade green irises, she was absolutely stunning. And also friendly, kind, a good listener, and the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. There was no possible way she’d been flirting with Korra. She screamed straight.

 

“Nice to meet you Korra. See you around!” Asami lifted her hand in a wave, then picked up her skis and walked off in the direction of the Excalibur Gondola. 

 

Korra stood dumbstruck for a good minute before blinking herself out of her trance. So she’d just spent an epic afternoon skiing and getting along famously with a gorgeous, successful stranger. So what. It was her job. 

 

She pulled out her phone and typed up a text to the topmost contact on her messages list.

 

Korra [4:07pm]

You would not believe who I had as a student today.

 

The response flashed back in less than a minute and Korra smiled fondly down at her phone.

 

Kuvira [4:08pm]

Who??

 

Korra [4:08pm]

The CEO of Future Industries.

 

Korra flipped to a browser and ran a quick Google search for ‘Asami CEO Future Industries.’ The sheer volume of content on this woman impressed her, but Korra was drawn to an image of Asami on the cover of Time magazine and an article titled ‘Tradition Makes History: Asami Sato.” And the picture of her, surrounded by the bold red frame of that unmistakable cover, was… powerful. Not to mention extremely alluring.

 

She sent Kuvira a link to the article and the photo.

 

Korra [4:08pm]

This is her. Bigshot.

 

Kuvira [4:09pm]

Damn. Is she that hot in person?

 

That gave Korra pause. Oddly, her instant response was that the picture didn’t even come close. But that wasn’t right. She’d barely even gotten a look at the woman’s face. She shook the thought away and answered quickly.

 

Korra [4:09pm]

No one looks hot in ski clothes

 

Kuvira [4:10pm]

LOL too true

 

Korra [4:10pm]

I’m headed home. Think you’ll have time for a video chat later tonight? I miss you.

 

The phone went silent for a few minutes. Long enough that Korra shoved it back in her pocket and walked to her locker to change out of her boots before checking it again. Her heart sank when she saw the message.

 

Kuvira [4:17pm]

I’m swamped, won’t have time tonight. 

 

Korra [4:21pm]

Bummer. Try again tomorrow?

 

Kuvira [4:22pm]

sure

 

Korra [4:22pm]

can’t wait. Love you.

 

Kuvira [4:24pm]

you too.

 

Sad and a little conflicted, Korra collected her belongings and made her way home.

Chapter Text

As she waited by flag number 12, Asami seesawed between doing what she’d come here to do--become an excellent skier--and asking for a repeat of last week’s session. Only her first ski lesson was to be dedicated to frolicking , as Korra had so charmingly put it. The rest were to be reserved for honing her skill until she could ski just as effectively when afraid as when she was carving confidently down an exhilarating blue run. 

 

Earlier, Asami toyed with the idea of shortening the session from four to two hours to give herself more time to explore Blackcomb. Unfortunately, meetings had consumed her morning, releasing her too late to contact the ski school with enough notice. No matter; she could ski any evening of the week if she wanted. Hopefully Kai would be a good instructor. She sighed and resigned herself to learning today; lessons should not be put to waste.

 

She doubted she’d have as much fun as last week. Korra’s company had been so… effortless. It wasn’t every day one spent four hours with a complete stranger without running out of things to talk about. The young CEO was shocked at how easily her story had sailed out of her. As if she and Korra were old friends. She’d learned after being the daughter of a highly visible corporate figure (and more recently, becoming one herself) that she needed to keep her personal life close to her chest if she wanted any chance at normalcy in her everyday interactions.

 

But Korra had taken it all in stride, offering condolences and an understanding that Asami had genuinely not expected. Most people would have ( had , actually) responded to her position with some sort of misplaced praise or sense of awe and Asami despised it. She understood people’s natural tendency to latch on to the silver lining in a situation like hers and tried not to blame them, but Korra had thoroughly surprised her by discerning the reality so quickly. ‘Sounds like you’ve been through hell and back.’ That was the unwashed truth that others chose to overlook when they pictured ‘Asami Sato: Youngest Female CEO in Automotive History.’ She smiled to herself, remembering the wave of appreciation that washed over her at Korra’s swift and intuitive answer. I really do hope I run into her again.

 

“Asami, hi!” Speak of the devil.

 

“Korra! What a surprise.” Asami greeted the approaching instructor with a full-bodied smile. “You got a lesson this afternoon?”

 

“Yep.” Korra crossed her arms in an impossibly cute challenge. “Yours.”

 

It struck the CEO that she hadn’t seen Korra’s full face before. But now, with Korra’s helmet dangling casually from gloved fingers, she noticed . In person, the bright blue eyes that had caught her breath from her phone screen shone vividly with animation. Asami discovered with delight that Korra’s grin was indeed as lopsided as it seemed, even without the press of a helmet against her cheeks. Korra’s dark brown hair hung at shoulder length, skimming the collar of her instructor’s uniform, and Asami was more than pleased to find that the deep bronze of Korra’s skin was her natural complexion and not simply a result of long days spent in the sun. 

 

Short, dark, and handsome. Asami’s head went straight for the gutter. Just how I like them… Down, Sato. She’d only known the woman for a total of four hours and fifteen seconds. Not that that had stopped her before… Asami stilled the feistier parts of her mind. Evidently, she’d been deprived of decent human contact for far too long if she was drooling this much over someone she barely knew. 

 

The engineer shook the thought away as Korra’s word finally registered. ‘Yours.’ That smug sideways smile was a disaster waiting to happen. Asami noted it as her brain caught up and understood Korra was referring to her ski lesson.

 

“What happened to Kai? Sick again?” Asami smirked back, raising an eyebrow. 

 

“Actually, he doesn’t work for the ski school anymore. He got a new job with the heli-ski tour shop in town.” Korra said, unmistakably thrilled. “It’s been his dream job since he started here, so no one’s even sad to see him go.” 

 

“Heli-ski? That sounds like quite the epic career. Have you ever been?”

 

Korra’s eyes widened eagerly as she responded. “I really want to try it. Been saving up for a while now… maybe with an in at the tour shop I can get a discount finally!” Korra winked and Asami's stomach responded by flipping over on its side. Really? It was a near thing that she didn’t invite Korra to go heli-skiing with her right then and there. 

 

Asami concluded her impulsiveness was an exclusive result of how little (read: zero) sex she’d had over the last several months. No use reading into it; Korra was her instructor and that was all. She changed the subject. “I take it you’re taking over his lessons?”

 

“Not all of them.” Korra smirked again. “But yours, yes.”

 

The CEO found herself grinning widely. “Well. I can’t say that I mind.” Do not flirt.

 

“So,” Korra mumbled as she slipped her helmet over her head. “Is there anything in particular you want to work on this time?” Asami made herself believe the playful look in Korra’s teasing eyes wasn’t flirtatious. 

 

But, just to be safe, Asami engaged. “How about a frolic around Blackcomb?” She offered, raising both eyebrows more suggestively than she had any right to. Her commitment to a real ski lesson never crossed her mind as a smile split Korra’s face and she led Asami to the gondola that would take them up her side of the mountain.

 

*


Asami cursed herself for unceremoniously losing her ski glove from the chairlift. Putting it on her lap to slip her phone out for a picture had been idiotic, but the scenery was too stunning not to capture. The consequence was a ski lesson cut short to avoid freezing her hand. Korra promised they’d make up for it the following week and Asami chose to believe her. But before then, she needed to replenish her equipment. Preferably with a glove that came with wrist straps. At the very least, she welcomed the excuse to shop and explore Whistler Village.

 

She made her way downtown on a pleasantly sunny Saturday afternoon and wandered lazily in and out of various shops, eyeing their gear collections noncommittally, in no rush to end her errand abruptly. With a few bags in hand, none containing the target of her mission, she grabbed herself a beer to enjoy by the fire pits that overlooked the beginner ski area near Blackcomb Gondola.

 

The CEO sipped her stout, basking in the warm glow of the sun reflecting off snow and the heat from the fire that pricked at her cheeks. She sighed icontentedly and opened her eyes to watch the flow of skiers and snowboarders sliding, skidding, and stopping across from where she sat. In the midst of a heated internal debate concerning ordering an appetizer or scurrying back home to her fridge, the deafening scream of a toddler pierced her peace. 

 

She searched, blinking at the shrillness of the sound. There was not a minor among the sparse population in her selected bar, indicating the child stood further away. That is one loud kid. Her suspicion was confirmed as her eyes found the source of the interruption.

 

Beyond the terrace, a marshmallowy, helmeted, human-shaped lump of ski clothes lay face down in the snow, arms spread flat on the ice and tiny skis wobbling limply in the air. She bit back a laugh. As adorable as it was to witness a mini human looking so endearingly helpless, that wail sounded like it had hurt . Poor thing . Asami couldn’t help but scan the area for the responsible adult that should have been aiding the afflicted little soul.

 

She scrunched her eyebrows together at the cuteness overload when a brown-haired instructor toddled over to said lump and lifted the child up by her ankles, skis and all, eliciting a delighted shriek from deep within the oversized helmet. The instructor held the kid upside down, lifting her so they were eye to eye, until the giggles died down and she said something inaudible to her student. As the young marshmallow was gracefully flipped back onto her skis Asami squinted, wondering at the familiar tingle in the back of her mind. The toddler’s high-pitched voice solved her mystery, “But Miss Korraaaaa, you’re not wearing a helmet.”

 

Korra’s words had been inaudible, but her laugh carried across the snow and Asami recognized it at once. She smiled and watched fondly as Korra muttered something else to the student, then turned her around and guided the wriggling little skier to the magic carpet conveyor. Her eyebrows shot up in surprise as Korra walked away and did the same for a bouncing school of other helmets eagerly awaiting their instructor. That’s a lot of little ones to manage at once.  

 

Asami was mesmerized. It was at once comical and endearing to watch the unfailing grin on Korra’s face as she corralled five more uncoordinated toddlers up the small bump of snow to the magic carpet. As one managed to work his way closer to the entrance, clutching Korra’s hand for balance, another slid slowly backward on their skis and knocked down a third. The CEO decided she could order something to hold off her hunger until she went home. Why leave a bar with free live entertainment?

 

She convinced herself she could hear Korra’s laughs as the impossibly patient instructor deposited a marshmallow on the conveyor and proceeded to detangle the small mess of mittens and skis that struggled behind her. Through sheer force of will, Korra managed to get her discombobulated class loaded and whisked up the beginner ski hill. Asami chuckled as she saw the instructor brace her hands on her knees to catch her breath and wipe at her brow. Can’t say I blame her.

 

She almost yelped in shock as Korra took off, running uphill alongside the magic carpet and waving madly to her charges who laughed and giggled at her antics. In ski boots no less. That is some energy . Asami sighed in relief when she noticed that Korra conferred with another instructor as she arrived breathlessly atop the little ski bump. It was entirely too much to believe that a single person could deal with all of that by themselves. Especially now that all the little tykes were uphill , loaded with potential energy that their skis begged to take advantage of. Apparently I’m invested in this show. She wondered loosely if these kids had learned how to stop yet.

 

As it turned out, some had and some hadn’t. She giggled as Korra positioned herself across the hill, not directly below the students, to catch each one as they skied towards her with their skis spread in inhumanly wide “snowplow” configurations. Every catch looked a little more precarious than the last, bordering on hilarious when Korra barely grasped the scruff of a fluffy jacket to stop the sixth child from flying off to the bottom of the hill. 

 

Korra took the time to line each student up and adjust the positioning of their skis until they could hold themselves still on the slope without sliding out of control. Only then would she signal her counterpart to send the next one bombing towards her. They repeated this hand-off three times until all six colorful poofs of ski clothes were standing, balanced and still, at the base of the magic carpet. 

 

This time, she heard Korra’s raised voice. “Great job everyone! You were awesome! No one fell! Everyone stopped! Three cheers for our Green Team!” She led them in a shrill round of ‘hip, hip, hoorays’ and then high-fived six tiny upheld mittens as she strode across the front of her class. Asami’s cheeks burned and she couldn’t tell if it was from the heat of the fire pit or from smiling for several minutes straight. As Korra and the other instructor helped the kids out of their skis and handed them off to proud awaiting parents, Asami shook off her reverie and sipped her nearly forgotten beer. That was adorable.

 

When she glanced back across the terrace, she saw Korra waving goodbye to the other instructor, who skied off to catch the gondola. Korra turned abruptly towards the bar and met Asami’s gaze. Uh-oh. Caught staring . She wasn’t actually staring, really. She just happened to be looking in Korra’s direction in the exact same moment Korra decided to face her. Pure coincidence. She raised a hand and waved, forcing herself to ignore the awkwardness until it shriveled up and died from neglect.

 

The instructor narrowed her eyes and cocked her head as she returned a slow hesitant wave. Oh man, she doesn’t even recognize me. This is embarrassing. Asami thanked the cold for disguising her blush as she lowered her hand, but then Korra’s eyes widened in recognition and a lopsided smile spread across her face. Oh. Well that works, too.

 

“Asami!” Asami found herself grinning as Korra walked over. “Hey!” The instructor said casually as she leaned her elbows ever-so-coolly on the railing. 

 

“Good to see you, Korra.” The CEO said pleasantly before letting the smile she felt in her stomach slip into her voice. “That was some show out there.” Asami said, gesturing to the beginner’s ski hill with her chin.

 

“Oh?” Korra chuckled. “You were watching, huh?” Asami did not detect a hint of playfulness in that tone. Definitely not.

 

“It was hard not to,” she justified. “They are so cute!”

 

Korra’s eyes lit up. “I know, right?!” Asami laughed as she sensed the beginning of a loving rant coming on. “They are so cute. And so resilient. Oh my god, and their heads are already too big for their little bodies without helmets on. So when the helmet goes on they just teeter totter like mini human bobble-head dolls. It’s the sweetest thing. Every time they fall it’s head first. Forward, back, sideways, doesn’t matter. So hilarious and so adorable.”

 

Asami tilted her head to one side and regarded Korra curiously. “Is this what Jinora meant when she said it was ‘unlike you’ to be teaching an adult lesson?” 

 

Korra’s cheeks reddened and she smiled shyly. Asami found it almost as endearing as the little skiers. “Um… pretty much.” Her blush faded with her awkward chuckle. “I definitely prefer to teach the little ones. It’s really fun.”

 

“Even if you don’t get to ski?” Asami asked, genuinely curious.

 

“Oh, I still ski. I always find a way to get up there somehow.” Korra winked. 

 

“I can’t believe you even have the energy to ski after that.” The engineer exclaimed. “It looked exhausting.”

 

“Sure is.” Korra sighed. “But kids are so satisfying to teach. They’re not constantly trying to prove something to themselves. Makes them fast learners. And it makes for a really gratifying lesson almost every time.” Her smile was full and genuine, dominating her expression from her lips up to her bright blue eyes. 

 

“Oh yes,” Asami rolled her eyes playfully. “Us adults are the ones with the real problems. Only getting in our own way.”

 

“You say that like you’re kidding,” Korra laughed, then scoffed. “But it is 100% true.”

 

“Believe me, I know…” Asami said. “I hope the last two weeks haven’t been too much of a pain, then.”

 

Korra’s eyes widened in panic and she shook her head furiously. “No, no! Yours was the first adult ski lesson I actually enjoyed, believe it or not!” She explained hastily. 

 

Asami raised an eyebrow and smiled. “Well, that’s good to hear. Though, to be fair, we haven’t had a proper lesson yet.”

 

The instructor grinned confidently. “I’m sure it’ll be just as great.”

 

The CEO smiled back and realized after a second that an unfilled silence began to grow as they remained frozen there, simply smiling at each other. Korra had the same idea and spoke up just as Asami decided to comment on the weather to keep the conversation afloat.

 

“So what brings you down to the village?”

 

“I came down to shop for that glove we bade farewell to at our lesson on Wednesday.” Asami explained.

 

“Oh right!” Korra laughed as she remembered. “Find anything good?” She asked, nodding to the bags sitting on the chair opposite Asami.

 

“Yes… though I still haven’t bought any gloves. I enjoyed wandering around too much to let it end by accomplishing my task.” Asami chuckled at herself, knowing full well it was a rather fanciful thought.

 

“Can’t blame you honestly.” Korra looked around appreciatively. “The village is wonderful, isn’t it?” Asami nodded in agreement. “Have you been down at night to see the lights?”

 

The CEO shook her head ‘no’ and Korra gawped at her, clutching a hand to her chest in feigned offense. “Girl! You must! It gives the word ‘magical’ a whole new meaning.”

 

Asami shrugged and Korra shook her head disapprovingly. “I can’t believe you’ve been here at least a week and haven’t come down to the village at night.” Then Korra paused, considering for a moment before a beguiling smile spread across her features. “What are you doing later tonight?”

 

Um. What. Asami was sure she hadn’t just been asked out. All Korra had asked was if she had plans. Innocent question. No reason to be fumbling and stuttering like she was at the moment. Maybe say something, Sato?

 

“I, uh, don’t have any plans.”

 

“Perfect!” Korra said triumphantly. “Kai, Jinora, and I are going out tonight to celebrate his new job. You should come with! We can go somewhere in the village so you can get the full experience.”

 

Asami didn’t know if she should feel relieved or disappointed. Sure, Korra was undeniably cute and absurdly easy to talk to, but that didn’t mean Asami should hope for anything more. Especially since ‘anything more’ would surely mess up her groove with an actually excellent ski instructor. She had the whole season to get through still. Screwing up like that was not a good idea. Relieved it is. She could also afford to make some friends to shake off some of the ‘forever alone’ vibe she’d been giving herself this year. 

 

“Actually, that would be… really nice.” Asami answered honestly. 

 

“Great!” Korra’s contagious lopsided grin had Asami smiling instantly. “We’re getting together around 7pm, but we haven’t decided on a place yet. I can... text you… once we figure it out? ”

 

“Sounds good.” Asami slipped her phone out of her pocket and handed it to Korra, who typed in her information without hesitation. Asami sent her new contact a text with her name and Korra smiled when she pulled her buzzing phone from inside her jacket. 

 

“Gotcha.” Korra said, waving her phone as she saved Asami’s number. She looked back up as she tucked the device away and smiled at Asami over the railing. “I gotta run and clock out back at HQ, but I’m glad I ran into you. Tonight’s going to be fun!”

 

Asami couldn’t help but agree. “I’m looking forward to it. See you then.” She waved as Korra walked away and wondered why she felt so privileged to have gotten Korra’s number.

 

She wasn’t expecting her phone to buzz to life in her hands before she’d gotten a chance to put it away. 

 

Korra [15:48]

Btw if you want a good glove selection and don’t mind a walk, check out Kuruk’s.

 

Asami [15:48]

Thanks for the tip!

 

Korra [15:49]

Np. See you later =D

Chapter Text

Korra [6:12pm]

Hey! Let’s meet by the ski school and we can walk to the bar.

 

Asami [6:16pm]

Sounds like a plan. See you soon!

 

Korra tossed her phone on her bed once she’d gotten Asami’s confirmation. She was toweling off her wet hair and staring absently at her closet when Jinora barged into her room.

 

“Hey!” Korra called out in mock outrage, “I’m not even dressed yet!” She made a show of covering herself up, regardless of how many times her roommate had seen her in various states of undress.

 

Jinora didn’t even acknowledge it as she held up two shirts on hangers for Korra to evaluate. “Which one?”

 

Korra’s eyebrows shot up. “You’re asking me ?”

 

Her roommate rolled her eyes resignedly. “Well I wouldn’t be if I had anyone else, but here we are.” She wiggled each hanger, sending ripples through both flowy blouses. “So?”

 

“Uh…” Korra gave it some serious thought before saying, “I like them both.”

 

“Ughhh c’mon Korra! This is supposed to be a special night for Kai. I want to look extra good for him.”

 

“Oh yeah?” Korra lifted an eyebrow and crossed her arms. “Do you mean special special?”

 

Jinora blushed profusely and clutched one of the shirts to her chest. “I-I… maybe?”

 

Genuine shock blew Korra’s eyes wide open. “Really?!” Jinora had always said she wanted to wait until marriage to be intimate with her partner. Her parents had never pushed the issue; she’d meditated on it and come to the conclusion on her own. She’d explained her perspective: she wanted to nurture intimacy between their spirits before yielding to the physical kind. It was a weirdly mature and torturous choice, but Kai had respected it without question and they’d remained a strong and honest couple for years now.

 

“Well…” Jinora began to explain, “I think Kai is… I dunno, he’s it .” She sighed and smiled to herself. “We’ve talked about it. We’ve talked about everything. And it’s become pretty clear that we are both committed to each other… for good.”

 

Korra grinned like a fool. She’d known. She’d grown up alongside Jinora and knew her near-sister was completely smitten with the boy even before Jinora did. Korra had observed Kai suspiciously until it became abundantly clear that he was just as devoted as Jinora deserved. It didn’t mean Korra was free of concern though, big sister instinct and all.

 

“He’s not pressuring you is he?!” The instructor questioned anxiously.

 

Jinora laughed it off. “Not even a little. Chill, Kor.” Korra relaxed and Jinora hesitated. “ I’ve been the one thinking about it. The idea of marriage represented the ultimate commitment to me and that’s why I wanted to wait. But… I feel like Kai and I already have that. I know it, somewhere I can’t really explain. So… why wait for the formality, you know?”

 

Korra nodded solemnly then smirked. “You sure you’re not just a horny 21-year old?”

 

Her roommate blushed hard but deadpanned back. “Korra, honey, I’ve been horny for years .”

 

Korra’s jaw fell open but she recovered quickly enough to join Jinora in her laugh. “I’m happy for you guys. I have no doubt that whatever you decide it’ll be the right choice. I’m just glad I’ll have a buffer against being a third wheel tonight.” Korra chuckled.

 

“Oh yeah!” Jinora’s eyes widened. “You invited that ski student from last week, right?”

 

“Yep. Figured since she was so gracious about Kai ditching her for his interview, she deserved to be a part of the celebration.”

 

Jinora giggled but didn’t seem convinced. “No other reason?”

 

“Besides not wanting to be the third wheel while you get Kai all wound up?” Korra lifted her eyebrows suggestively and Jinora shrugged. “Asami said she’s going to be here for the entire season, and it kinda seemed like she was by herself?”

 

Her roommate's eyebrows rose in surprise. “Well that seems sad.”

 

“Right?” Korra agreed. “I thought she could use a few friends to show her around.”

 

“You’re too nice, Korra.”

 

Korra shrugged. “What can I say? I’m a softie.”

 

“Well, we’ll show her a good time tonight. She’ll get to see what Whistler is really like from the inside .” Jinora wiggled her eyebrows and laughed. Then she held up her shirts again, insistently. “So, which one?”

 

**

 

Asami waited by the ski school, burrowing her chin in the collar of her ski coat. She checked the time on her phone: 19:03. Korra wasn’t quite late , but Asami began to worry she’d chosen the wrong building. Her phone vibrated.

 

Korra [19:03]

On my way! Kai didn’t pay attention and went straight to the bar, and Jinora asked me to drop her there… be there in 5.

 

Relieved, Asami replied with a thumbs-up before deciding to send her location to Korra, just to be safe.

 

Asami [19:04]

Am I in the right place?

 

Korra’s affirmative buzz came a minute or so later and she let herself relax. She spun slowly to admire the sheer amount of lighting that had been wrapped around every tree in sight. The glow was colorful and warm, despite the chill of the evening.

 

“Hey!” Korra’s voice turned her around.

 

“Hey!” Asami smiled, taking a few steps in the instructor’s direction.

 

“Sorry I’m late. Those two lovebirds could learn a thing or two about being considerate.” She seemed rather frustrated. And flustered. And she happened to look great in those skinny jeans and ankle boots.

 

“It’s no problem, really.” Asami waved off Korra’s concern. “I got carried away with the lights and lost track of time a bit.” She smiled and Korra brightened.

 

“They’re great, aren’t they?” She said as she looked around. “It’s actually one of the reasons I chose to come work here.”

 

“Really?” Asami couldn’t help but chuckle.

 

“Yeah! I mean, there’s other stuff, like the fact that Whistler hosted the Winter Olympics, that Tenzin’s family is here, that the ski school pays well, and that the mountain itself is epic … but there are other places like that.” Korra shrugged and lifted her chin as if taking it all in for the first time. “When I saw the twinkle lights it kind of sealed the deal for me.”

 

It was the purest thing Asami had ever heard. You’re adorable . The fondness and familiarity of the thought, and how close she came to saying it out loud, took her aback. She looked away from Korra to keep from staring at the way her eyes glistened as they reflected the lights.

 

“They… kind of look like the trees from a Dr. Seuss book to me.” Asami mused.

 

Korra gasped and Asami cringed, worried she’d somehow misstepped. Instead, Korra nodded enthusiastically, “That’s what I said when I first saw them, too! I think it’s so...”

 

“Magical?” Asami offered the word Korra had used earlier that afternoon.

 

“Yeah.” She said breathily as she looked around. The instructor bounced on the balls of her feet and pointed down one of the quaint village streets that seemed straight from a children's book. “There’s a lot more on the way to the bar! Shall we?”

 

“Let’s go.” Asami smiled.

 

On their way, Korra pointed out her favorite haunts. She seemed to prefer the places with the more understated signage: a coffee shop here, a clothing store there, and a few pubs along the way. Asami noted it all with interest.

 

“That’s enough to keep me busy here for a while.” Asami said gratefully. “Thanks for taking the time to show me around, Korra. I really appreciate it.”

 

“My pleasure! And we’re only one street in!” Korra laughed. “There’s a lot more to see. Especially further outside the village proper. Not quite as quaint, but still super welcoming. I’m sure you’ll explore a lot more while you’re here. Which…” Korra turned to her. “I was wondering, how long will that be actually?”

 

“Until March or April, probably.”

 

“Wow, that’s a long time. You weren’t kidding about the whole season.”

 

It was early December. Asami had fully intended to be gone from New York as long as possible. She needed distance from the suffocating density of the city. Between work and her accelerated business school course, her life was a whirlwind. Perhaps if her surroundings reflected a bit of the peace she yearned for internally, she’d manage to heal a bit. Her therapist had suggested that some quiet might help her process her grief and loss instead of drowning it out like she had for the last year and change. Surprisingly, she’d agreed. She’d made the arrangements swiftly and found herself cautiously optimistic about her months away. Even with four months ahead of her, she only felt dread when she thought about going back to the city.

 

“Worried you’ll run out of things to teach me?” Asami teased, diverting her thoughts from the anxiety that bubbled in her chest.

 

“What? No!” Korra laughed. “And if I do run out of things to teach, it means you’ve become an expert. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing, would it?” She grinned.

 

Asami was surprised to find that she disagreed. Becoming an expert skier that had little left to learn? Not bad. No longer having lessons with Korra? Not great. Don’t get attached . She needed to slow down before interest became a crush. You’re making friends , Sato.

 

The CEO shrugged and forced a smile, “I guess there are worse things than being an expert.” She said noncommittally.

 

“So…” Korra started hesitantly, “is it too intrusive if I ask why you’re here for so long?”

 

The answer should have been ‘yes, way too intrusive.’ But Asami found herself sharing anyway. “I… Things were getting a little heavy in New York… on top of the insane hours required by work and school, I think I was on the verge of collapse.” She chuckled a bit to diffuse the tension building in her shoulders. “I noticed that things were going to start slowing down in December and took the opportunity to give myself a change of scenery.”

 

“It’s good to take time for yourself.” Korra said solemnly. The gravity in her voice made it sound like she knew a thing or two about it. Asami immediately wanted to know more but Korra’s next question redirected her thoughts. “How are you managing all the work from all the way out here?”

 

“Ah…” Asami smiled ruefully. “The short answer? Video chat and a strategic time zone advantage.”

 

“And the long answer?” Korra followed up eagerly. 

 

Asami gestured as through her explanation. “I front-loaded a lot of the end of semester assignments for business school. Just have a few group projects left and video chat is more than enough for that. With work… the time zone difference kind of helps. I get up early to start the day with the East Coast and take a few hours in the afternoon to get a jump on everyone for the next day. And I can still be done by four or five. It’s pretty much the only way I can manage leaving early on Wednesdays for our lessons.”

 

Korra grimaced. “How early do you have to be up?”

 

“5-ish.”

 

“Blegh.” Korra stuck her tongue out in disgust. “I don’t know how you do it. Mornings are evil.”

 

Asami shrugged, “Comes with the territory. After a while you don’t really notice it anymore.”

 

“Honestly, being able to wake up that early seems like a superpower.” The instructor shook her head in disbelief and Asami barked out a laugh. 

 

“I’m sure you could do it if you had to.”

 

“Oh yes, but I am strategically avoiding having to.” Korra wiggled her eyebrows. “For as long as I can, at least.”

 

“What time do you have to get up for the ski school?”

 

“First class of the day is usually at 9am so… 8am, most days. 8:30am if we’re being honest.” Korra laughed. “I’m usually cutting it way too close.”

 

Asami chuckled as Korra led them up to a set of doors illuminated from within by an inviting yellow glow. They stepped into the warmth and Korra immediately caught Jinora’s eye at the bar. A tall, lanky man with a chin strap and a messy mop of dark hair had an arm wrapped around her waist.

 

The man lit up at the sight of them and immediately laid a hand on Korra’s shoulder. “You’re finally here! Who’s your date?” Jinora rolled her eyes behind him.

 

Korra’s eyes went wide and she blanched. If Asami wasn’t mistaken, that was a look of sheer embarrassment and she enjoyed it immensely. The instructor recovered quickly and smirked at her tormentor, shrugging him off with a playful shove. “She’s actually the student that you ditched last minute for your interview last week.” 

 

Kai’s dark green eyes darted shiftily from Korra to Asami and he gave an awkward smile before leaning into the situation and extending a hand. “Hi, I’m Kai.”

 

“Asami.” She said, shaking his hand with a knowing smirk and a raised eyebrow. “Congratulations on your new job.”

 

The unabashed joy in his voice as he laughed out a “Thanks” was enough to make Asami decide she liked him. She appreciated him even more when he offered to buy the CEO her first beverage for her ‘ selfless sacrifice’ of accepting a lesson with Korra.

 

The four of them hung by the bar, making easy small talk as Asami got to know Korra’s friends. They were lovely people and quickly made Asami feel right at home. Jinora worked in Ski Patrol with her father to help put herself through college and Kai had been a ski instructor since he moved here in high school. The CEO felt the alcohol ease the edges of her stress as she listened happily to Jinora share some of her more thrilling Ski Patrol stories. The warm, calm pleasantness that had spread across her chest shriveled instantly when a looming presence behind her interrupted in an unjustifiably cocky voice. “Hey beautiful, can I buy you a drink?”

 

**

 

Korra observed in suspicious silence as a man she could only describe as a ‘douche-bro ’ bellied up to the bar behind Asami and eyed her appreciatively. The guy did nothing to hide his overt ogling of Asami’s ass (which Korra noted looked admittedly grabable in her black jeans). His eyes lingered appraisingly on her every curve and Korra glared at him as she saw his eyebrows twitch with approval and his mouth spread into a distasteful smirk.

 

A moment before she could get Asami’s attention and tell the arrogant prick to walk away, the slimeball spoke. Even his voice was douchey. “Hey beautiful, can I buy you a drink?”

 

Korra wanted to throw up. But it wasn’t her place to step in. Who knew, maybe this guy was exactly Asami’s type. God, I hope not. She watched Asami tense and raise her eyebrows at the question. The CEO closed her eyes and clenched her jaw. She opened them again, looking up at the ceiling and sighing heavily, as if praying for the deific patience she would need to dispel the cocky presence behind her. 

 

Korra couldn’t help but grin as she witnessed an icy mask of politeness settle over the CEO’s features before she moved to face her unwanted suitor. Asami flipped her hair over her shoulder as turned, sending a whiff of her coconut shampoo in Korra’s direction. If the instructor hadn’t seen the impatience on the woman’s face a moment before, she would have sworn Asami was flirting by turning around like that

 

“Thank you for the offer, but I’m all set.” Asami dismissed, tightly but tactfully. 

 

“Well,” The guy with the overly coiffed hair didn’t back away. Instead he moved a step closer, towering over Asami as she still leaned on the bar. “I’ll settle for getting to know you, then.”

 

The CEO lifted her elbows and stood up to her full height, putting herself eye to eye with the man. The iciness from her expression dripped into her tone. “Like I said. I’m all set. No thank you.” Damn, Asami. Korra imagined her withering stare and almost laughed out loud. 

 

Either the man was dumber than stone or too arrogant to fathom a woman not wanting him. He put his hand on Asami’s elbow and inched closer. Korra clenched a fist and began mentally inventing ways to intervene, most having to do with the man’s very punchable nose. 

 

“Oh, c’mon Ice Queen. You might like what I have to offer.” The man oozed confidence in the slimiest way possible. Ew.

 

“You’re not my type. I’m not interested.” Asami said flatly and took a step back. Korra stepped forward to make the man aware that Asami was not alone. 

 

The guy didn’t even acknowledge Korra glowering at him as he squeezed his grip on Asami’s arm and continued to badger her. “Is that right? What is your type then? I can be pretty flexible, you know.”

 

Galled by the man’s nerve, Korra turned to Kai and Jinora to find them staring in disbelief at the disgusting interaction unfolding before them. Jinora looked outright pissed off and Kai seemed utterly dumbfounded, like he’d never seen a man behave this way before. Korra rolled her eyes and took another protective step toward Asami, searching the conversation for the right opportunity to jump in and help. Asami gave it to her in a heartbeat.

 

“Unfortunately for you,” the CEO said coolly, “I don’t play for your team.” That’s it!

 

Korra pushed herself forward and slipped her arms around Asami’s waist. She stopped just short of pressing herself against the CEO’s back, wrapping her arms around her until she was hugging her fully from behind. She rested her chin on Asami’s shoulder, trying hard to ignore how pleasantly her shampoo and perfume mixed together. She gulped, feeling Asami stiffen at the contact. Oh god, I hope you’re okay with this…

 

Babe. ” Korra said, staring daggers at the man who had ripped his hand away from Asami’s elbow the moment Korra appeared in his field of vision. “Is this guy bothering you?”

 

The vile idiot just smiled. He cocked an entitled eyebrow and eyed the two of them up and down. “Oh, I don’t mind this at all. Watching is fun too.” Holy fucking hell I’m going to slap that moronic grin right off his fa—

 

Asami’s warm palm sliding over her forearm froze Korra’s thoughts instantly. Goosebumps spread like wildfire up her arms and down her spine as the CEO’s wonderfully soft skin stroked hers. Korra forced her expression to remain neutral, aware her internal reaction to the touch could give away their farce completely. This is pretend. You’re just helping out a friend. Keep it together, Korra.

 

“Yes, hon.” Asami turned her head slightly as she answered, pressing the curve of her jaw against Korra’s temple. Korra’s heart started racing. PRETEND, Korra. “This guy is bothering me.”

 

That was her cue. Korra leveled her nastiest stare in the man’s direction and smirked cruelly at him. “You heard her. Fuck off, asshole. Go strike out somewhere else.”

 

That might not have been the right thing to say. Redness creeped up his neck and into his cheeks as rage filled his eyes. Uh-oh. Maybe I will get to punch him after all.  

 

Just as he took a menacing step forward, Kai stepped in between them. He put his hands up to the shorter man appeasingly. “Hey man, can’t you take a hint? No means no, dude.”

 

The man deflated, flustered by the sudden interruption and cowed by the presence of another male in the room. He growled something rude under his breath and skulked away angrily.

 

“Whew.” Kai said as Jinora came over and slid quietly into his arms. “That was close. What a dick.”

 

Korra withdrew hastily from around Asami as soon as the threat was out of sight. She felt a blush invade her cheeks as Asami turned to face her. “I’m so sorry, Asami. I-I…” Korra’s hand crept up to a nonexistent itch on the back of her neck. “I really shouldn’t have touched you without permission. But that guy looked like he wasn’t about to back off and that was the first thing that crossed my mind and I just…. I-I’m sorry. Really”

 

The CEO smiled softly and patted Korra’s shoulder gently. “It’s alright Korra. I didn’t mind. It turned out for the best. I think I needed the rescue. Thanks for stepping in. Both of you.” She smiled gratefully at Kai but Korra wasn’t convinced.

 

“I still should have somehow asked before doing that…” Korra muttered guiltily. 

 

“Probably.” Asami agreed with a chuckle. “But really, don’t worry about it. I would have agreed if you’d asked anyway.” This time Korra let out a heaving sigh of relief. 

 

“Okay, real question.” Kai started after a long pause. “I know this is probably pretty stupid but… how do you ask for permission in a delicate situation like this? I mean, you know, just then, Korra couldn’t very well have said ‘Asami can I touch you?’ without making it really obvious what she was trying to do.”

 

Korra answered, thinking out loud as she went, “I dunno, maybe I could have tapped her on the shoulder or something sneaky like that. Or, better yet, not grabbed her from behind and intervened some other way…” She tried not to feel guilty again for acting without knowing if Asami would be okay with it. Asami and Jinora nodded in agreement and turned to look at Kai.

 

“Oh…” Kai looked down shyly. “What about in, like, a one-on-one situation? I mean this honestly. How do you get explicit consent without killing the mood?”

 

Jinora blushed so hard she buried herself against Kai’s arm in embarrassment. Korra and Asami both threw their heads back with laughter. 

 

“What?!” the young man challenged, “I’m serious! I genuinely think that stops a lot of people from asking even though it shouldn’t.”

 

Jinora burrowed further into Kai as Asami stated matter-of-factly, “There are plenty of sexy ways to ask for consent.” Korra chuckled but nodded.

 

Kai still seemed unsure and Jinora couldn’t face them, fully aware of how much this conversation had to do with her. Asami rolled her eyes dramatically and crossed her arms. “Don’t believe me?” He met her gaze and raised his eyebrows innocently. “Fine. How about this?” The CEO leaned forward and muttered something inaudible over his shoulder.

 

The poor boy’s eyes blew wide open and his entire head turned beet red at Asami’s words. Korra burst out laughing at Kai’s sputters and Asami pulled back with a self-satisfied smirk on her painted lips.

 

“Uhm. Yeah. Uhm. I guess that would, uhm. Yeah.” The ex-ski instructor struggled to find his tongue and Jinora lifted her head from its shelter to look at her flustered boyfriend, then to Asami.

 

“You broke him.” She laughed at the CEO. “What did you say?”

 

Asami raised her eyebrows and teased Jinora shamelessly, “Well I can’t very well tell you . It would totally ‘kill the mood .’”

 

Korra and Jinora cackled even as Jinora’s cheeks reddened again and a chuffed grin played across Asami’s mouth.

 

“Ok, but you can tell me .” Korra said, too curious not to ask. “I have to know what made Kai short circuit like that.”

 

The CEO smiled and chuckled. “Well, if you must know, I said…” She leaned over until her lips hovered just a few inches from Korra’s ear. Her hair fell forward over her shoulders and almost brushed against Korra’s face as Asami whispered, “ ‘I won’t fuck you till I hear you beg.’

 

Oh . God. Korra swallowed a lump in her throat. Was her brain playing tricks or had Asami’s voice actually lowered into the deep, seductive tone that sent chills through Korra’s body and straight to her-- no no no no no . She must have just misinterpreted.

 

“... or some variation of that.” Asami finished as she stood back, still smirking.

 

“Welp. That’s definitely one way to do it.” Korra recovered, burying her unexpected response to Asami’s proximity deep in the back of her mind. She laughed and patted Kai on the shoulder then glared at him seriously. “Don’t screw this up, got it?”

 

At that, Jinora groaned in shame and bumped her forehead softly against Kai’s upper arm.

 

He finally regained control of his faculties and must have decided he needed to catch up on the teasing because he bowled Korra over when he said, “So are you gonna tell Kuvira that your new girlfriend has some serious game?”

 

Korra’s eyes widened and Asami looked between them, utterly nonplussed. “She isn’t… we aren’t! That was…” Ugh, Kai, you just made it so awkward. Korra sighed. “Shut it Kai. Kuvira would probably have done the same in my position, you know that.”

 

“Ha! Kuvira would have grabbed Asami and kissed her if she were in your position.” Kai just kept making it worse. Korra slapped her forehead, resigned to her friendship with Mr. Oblivious.

 

“Who’s Kuvira?” Asami asked. “And why is she hypothetically kissing me?”

 

“Kuvira’s my girlfriend.” Korra turned to answer and smarted at the flash she thought she saw in Asami’s eyes. What? It was gone so fast she could barely tell if she’d seen anything at all. “She’s also totally shameless,” Korra smiled at the memory of her girlfriend’s confident smirk, “so instead of hugging you like I did, her idea of helping out would have been a lot more theatrical .”

 

Asami laughed heartily, “Well, considering the dude said he wanted to watch , that would have majorly backfired.”

 

“Definitely.” Korra agreed. Something raised the hackles on the back of her neck and she didn’t like how distant Asami felt all of a sudden. With a huff, she relieved herself of the discomfort, not bothering to try to understand.

 

Asami mercifully changed the subject. “How about another round? This one’s on me, as a thank you to my knights in shining armor.” The CEO batted her lashes dramatically at Korra and Kai as she handed out the menus, pulling a laugh from everyone in the group.

 

As the night wore on, Korra couldn’t quell the uneasy feeling that returned to gnaw at her stomach. She didn’t know where it came from, but when she went to the bathroom she felt compelled to send a message.

 

Korra [9:47pm]

Hey babe. Love you.

 

Going to bed without a reply only made her feel worse.

Chapter Text

Christmas Day. Even though this was her second year on her own, it was the first time Asami had the presence of mind to feel lonely. Last year she’d been too numb, blindly throwing herself into the business of figuring out the rest of her life, to even notice the holiday before it passed.

 

She was familiar with the melancholy sense of loss that settled over her during the holidays. Ever since her mother passed, Christmas had served as an occasion for quiet togetherness between her and her father. After he was widowed, he’d carefully curated a few precious traditions for himself and his daughter and repeated them devoutly each year. They would spend the two days together at home, indulging in seasonal films and putting their engineering skills to good use in building unnecessarily complex gingerbread houses. They always included a memento of her mother, no matter the design, and it never failed to make her smile when her father lovingly placed the final touch on the structure each year.

 

Without him, the warm comfort of the holiday was stripped away, leaving Asami with nothing but the bite of unanticipated loss. Out here in the mountains, without work to hide her or a city to lose herself in, she was alone with her grief. This is probably what my therapist meant by all this…

 

The anniversary of his death marked the day she came to Whistler. She’d taken the time to go to his and her mother’s graves in the days prior to her departure. In honor of her father and his ever forward-looking personality, she chose to use the one year mark as a stepping stone for progress instead of a dismal day of dwelling. She’d done the grieving in advance and taken a large leap of faith on the anniversary of his passing. 

 

But Christmas was a day for remembering. 

 

And remember she did, as she quietly pulled the last cookie sheet from the oven in her rental house. She laid out the odd assortment of gingerbread shapes and cross-checked them against the schematic she’d made for her creation. Once satisfied with the complete set, she moved the final batch to a wire rack to cool.

 

She sighed, dreading where her mind would wander as she watched the cookies cool with nothing to busy her hands. It was too early in the day for wine. At least wait till noon . And the movies on TV this time of day were not her favorites. Maybe she should go for a walk. Yeah… with the entire mountain at her disposal, there was no reason to stay cooped up indoors. 

 

The fresh air, snow, and trees instantly lifted her spirits. Instead of heading down the road, she walked out the back of the house where it butted up to a green ski run that led straight to the village base. Ski in/ski out was a fine thing indeed.

 

Snow floated tentatively down from the sky, enough to soften the sounds of the day but too light to require her to pull up the hood of her ski jacket. She commended herself on grabbing her snow pants though, as she began to trudge uphill and away from the house. 

 

The emptiness of the slope surprised her. On a holiday she had expected the mountain to be full of carefree families enjoying the day off. Maybe this early people were still in the ‘Christmas morning’ phase. She glanced at her phone, 10:30. Hm.

 

As she walked, a few skiers rolled past, but no one gave her a second glance. She stopped at the sight of what looked like a sled flying downhill just ahead on the opposite side of the slope. Now that looks like fun. She giggled to herself, wondering if sledding was permitted on the runs reserved for paying skiers and snowboarders. Even walking uphill she was a little unsure about.

 

She squinted, watching the sledder, and gasped in delight when she saw a large, floppy ball of fur charging after it. As the dog chased the sled closer to Asami, she grinned at the look of pure joy on the pup’s face as it ran with its tongue lolling out the side of its mouth. A really fun idea . So cute.

 

The sled flipped over in a puff of white several yards above her and she heard muffled giggles as the dog caught up to the rider and pressed its muzzle into the pile of human and snow. Aww .

 

The person bounced up in a flash and pulled the pup into a jovial wrestling match. Oh my god. Asami could not tear her eyes away from the adorable scene as the presumed owner of the dog stood up and began sprinting in circles as the dog chased her, upside down sled totally forgotten. Even after the person stopped, the pup continued to bound in wide arbitrary arcs, hopping and skipping madly over the snow. 

 

Asami shook her head at the sight. Well, that’s certainly heartwarming . She continued her trekk uphill, smiling at the view of the ecstatic pup and playful owner. 

 

“Asami?” Korra’s voice made her blink. The sledder with the dog waved widely at her from across the slope. She waved back, somewhat confused, until she realized that the person running towards her with a sled in hand and a loping dog behind her was actually her ski instructor. “I’d recognize your ski clothes from a mile away!”

 

“Hi Korra.” Asami said with a smile when the instructor closed the distance between them. The pup reached her first, nudging her fingers without hesitation, and Asami crouched down to bury her hands in the soft fur of the dog's neck. “Who is this sweetheart?”

 

“That’s Naga.” Korra said with a grin. 

 

“I’m in love.” The CEO asserted.

 

“Ha! It’s hard not to be with this one.” The instructor laughed.

 

Asami stood up from her kneeling position, not removing her fingers from Naga’s fur. “Such a cutie. Is she yours? Can I keep her?”

 

Korra’s throaty laugh made Asami smile. Their friendship had grown rapidly over the last several weeks. After her first night out with Korra and her friends, Asami had been too busy to join them again but they kept in touch and regularly invited her out. After her semester ended last week, she was itching to be invited again so she could let loose a bit and celebrate. She and Korra continued their ski lessons, where the instructor actually had her working on her technique and body movements. The fun hadn’t subsided when they transitioned from ‘frolicking’ to learning and Asami looked forward to the sessions every week. What better way to improve than to enjoy oneself doing it?

 

Asami was glad to have at least one friend in town. Knowing Korra was there, and having her friends continuously reach out, made Asami feel not so alone anymore. It seemed rather serendipitous she’d run into her instructor on a day like today.

 

“She’s spoken for.” Korra grinned, patting Naga on the head. “Wouldn’t let her go if you paid me.”

 

“Can’t blame you.” Asami said, relishing the warmth of the fur through her gloves. “Where’d you get her? Is she a rescue?”

 

“Sort of…” Korra looked down at her dog with absolute adoration. “She’s actually a retired Ski Patroller.”

 

“Wow! Really? She seems so young though…”

 

“Yeah… she got injured early in her career during a training exercise gone wrong. Recovered, but not enough to be able to continue working.” Korra trailed off sadly. “Which made her the perfect match for me!” Huh? “I snatched her up from Tenzin as soon as I could.” 

 

“Lucky you. And lucky her! You two looked like you were having a great time.” Asami smiled. “Are you actually allowed to sled up here?”

 

Korra laughed awkwardly, “Definitely not. But it pays to be staff sometimes.” She quirked her eyebrows with a self-satisfied smile.

 

“How’d you get her up the mountain?”

 

“Well, she’s trained for it, so we just took the chairlift.” Korra said proudly.

 

“Oh my god I would have loved to witness that.” Asami swooned over her new furry friend.

 

“What about you?” Korra asked curiously. “Doesn’t look like you have skis… did you walk all the way from the village?” She said incredulously.

 

Asami laughed. “God no. I don’t have that much energy.” She pointed a ways downhill to the tiny reflective marker she’d placed on a tree to identify the entrance to her rental. “The place I’m staying is just down there. I came out for a walk.”

 

“Wait, really?!” Korra sounded absurdly excited. “Ski in/Ski out?! Holy crap that is awesome. I would kill to have this as my backyard.” She threw her arms out wide, gesturing to the mountain reverently.

 

“It’s a bit of a climb from the run up to the house, but still totally worth it. I can ski straight out when I’m leaving.” 

 

“Oh my god, can I see?” The instructor pleaded, eagerly as a kid in an amusement park.

 

Asami smirked, “Only if you bring Naga.”

 

Korra didn’t even answer as she tapped her thigh and began marching downhill, Naga attentively glued to her side. The engineer chuckled and shuffled to catch up.

 

“Do you and Naga do this a lot?” Asami asked, gesturing to the sled tucked under Korra’s arm.

 

“She wishes.” Korra joked. “Normally there are way too many people skiing to mess around like this. There’s no better place to do it, though, so we only get out here on the rare quiet days. Like Christmas morning.”

 

“Wait, didn’t you say your parents were going to be in town for the holiday? Did you leave them at home for some quality time with the pup?”

 

Korra looked down at her feet and replied woefully. “They were supposed to come, but then my dad had to work. I have to teach tomorrow, so I couldn’t fly out. It’s just me and Naga today.”

 

Asami’s heart ached at the sadness in Korra’s voice. “What’s Jinora up to?”

 

“She’s at her parent’s with her younger siblings. They invited me over for Christmas dinner tonight, so that’ll be fun. It’s always total chaos with the little ones running around.” She seemed to brighten at that and it was enough to settle Asami’s concern. 

 

“That sounds wonderful.” Asami said with a genuine smile.

 

“What are you up to today? Gonna ski at all?” Korra asked. She sounded the least bit cautious and Asami appreciated that Korra didn’t specifically ask about Christmas plans, considerate as she was.

 

“Nothing much. Gonna watch some movies, build a gingerbread house.”

 

“Build a what?”

 

“A gingerbread house!” Asami chuckled and Korra barked out a laugh.

 

“That’s… oddly specific.”

 

“It’s actually a bit of a family tradition.” Asami’s voice came out more sheepish than she wanted and Korra breathed out an ‘oh’ before falling silent. Damnit . She really did not want to keep dwelling on the sad parts of this holiday but somehow the loneliness kept finding a way to creep back to the forefront.

 

“Do… you want some company?” Asami barely heard Korra’s quiet question and she turned to Korra curiously. The instructor’s eyes widened and she fumbled over her words. “Or help? I-I mean, no pressure at all. I just thought maybe you might… with everything… I could...” Korra’s mouth opened once more then snapped shut. “You know what, never mind. I’m overstepping.”

 

Asami nearly melted at the clumsy gentleness. Was Korra trying to make sure she didn’t feel alone? So sweet .

 

“Actually, that would be really nice.”

 

“Really?” The relief and hopefulness in her deep blue eyes made Asami forget herself for a second.

 

“Yeah.” Asami smiled. Maybe reenacting a family tradition all by herself after the passing of both her parents was a little too depressing. She’d felt bummed all morning until she ran into Korra. Having a friend around would significantly ease the burden.

 

“Wait.” Korra stopped abruptly and Asami turned to her, concerned. “You should sled down to your house.” She was dead serious, holding out the plastic sheet to Asami.

 

The CEO threw her head back and laughed at the sudden change in subject. “Why?” 

 

“Because it’s fun.” Korra said simply, like it was reason enough. Then she continued.

 

“And I want to make you smile.” That statement alone was enough to curl up the corners of Asami’s mouth as her heart skipped a beat. No no, Sato.

 

“And the whole point of doing this on a ski hill is so that you never have to walk uphill. Which means now is your last chance.” Korra pointed to the reflector about fifty yards below them.

 

“Aaand Naga will chase you.” That sealed the deal. Asami grabbed the offered sled and tossed on the snow. Korra put a foot down on the back to stop it from sliding as Asami settled herself on top. 

 

“Anything in particular I should know?” Asami asked, looking up over her shoulder at Korra’s foolish grin.

 

“Put your feet up on the sled.” Asami did as instructed. “When you want to stop, just fall over.” 

 

Before Asami could ask incredulously why there was no better option, Korra removed her foot and shoved , sending the engineer careening down the hill. Christ that woman is strong.  

 

That was the last coherent thought her brain formulated before the wind brought tears to her eyes and unbridled laughter tumbled up from her stomach. A second later, Naga was on her heels, paws thundering on the snow behind her. 

 

Not a moment too soon, she saw a flash of light bounce off the red reflector that told her she needed to stop. Now. She planted her feet on the snow, trying to slow herself down to no avail. Well, here goes . Asami clenched her eyes shut and let herself tip over to one side. She bounced and skidded over the snow until Naga caught up with her, wagging her tail happily.

 

Asami collected herself and looked around, an uncontainable smile plastered across her face. She’d only missed her exit by ten yards or so. Not bad . Then she saw Korra and lost it. She guffawed as Korra seal slid face first down the mountain towards them, no sled in sight. Naga followed Asami’s gaze and barked, running excitedly up to greet her owner. Korra managed to stop herself with a stupid amount of grace for someone using their stomach as a sled. She met Naga with open arms and shook the snow off her coat as she got up and walked over to the gasping engineer.

 

“Is walking too boring for you, Korra?” Asami managed to choke out.

 

Korra grinned like an absolute fool and nodded. “Totally.”

 

As she lowered her gaze to wipe the tears from her eyes, she noticed Korra’s jeans coated in snow and beginning to soak through. She lifted a questioning look to Korra who all but said ‘What?’ with her expression. Asami pointed at her bottom half and Korra looked down at herself. When she lifted her eyes she shrugged with an innocent smile that made Asami shake her head and laugh. “You’re ridiculous. Let’s go inside, we can put them in the dryer.”

 

Just as Asami walked past her to head back uphill, Korra said with a smirk, “Trying to get me out of my pants?”

 

Oh geez. It was a relief Asami was facing away so Korra couldn’t see the flush forming on her face. The comment was clearly meant as a joke but it twisted Asami’s insides that her brain’s immediate response was ‘So what if I am?’ She stifled the awkward chuckle that would have given her away. Asami didn’t expect Korra to look just as flustered as she felt when she turned to her with a skeptical but playful eyebrow raise. What’s with th--

 

Korra’s eyes shifted suddenly to the narrow snowy pathway that led up to Asami’s house. They widened in awe and Asami decided to accept the merciful transition as Korra looked from the house to Asami for confirmation. “Is that it?” She asked enthusiastically and Asami nodded.

 

“Let’s go Naga!” Korra called and she and her pup jogged energetically up the incline to see Asami’s place for the first time.

 

**

 

Korra avoided dwelling on her acute awareness that she was in Asami’s house for the first time and the two of them were alone . Naga was here. She’d always been a good buffer. Besides, it was perfectly normal friendly behavior to hang out together with no one else around. Down to the inappropriate sexual innuendos and borrowing each other's clothes. 

 

Korra looked at herself in the mirror of the downstairs bathroom and concluded she didn’t look half bad in Asami’s jogger sweats. They tightened a bit over her quads when she bent, but it wasn’t at all uncomfortable. It would do just fine until her jeans were out of the drier. What was I thinking with that belly slide anyway?

 

She stepped out of the washroom to find Naga awaiting her eagerly by the door. “Hi, girl. Don’t stress, I’m not going anywhere.”

 

Korra wandered back to the kitchen, where Asami loomed intently over a dozen or so cookies, each cut to a unique shape. She smiled at the bowl of water that Asami had no doubt put out for Naga while Korra was changing. The kitchen opened directly into a comfortable living space with a breakfast nook tucked in a corner. There were windows everywhere , inviting the essence of the mountain into the room. “This place is awesome.”

 

Asami looked up from her concentration and smiled. “Yeah, I really like it here.”

 

“It’s a lot bigger than it looks from outside… how many bedrooms?”

 

“Four…” Asami answered absently as she stared at a paper on the counter. “I use one as an office. Don’t have too many guests though, so sometimes the place feels a little big.”

 

“Maybe you should throw a party and fill it up for a night. Let a couple drunk friends crash in all the extra space.” Korra wiggled her eyebrows suggestively and Asami laughed. It always gave Korra an inexplicable satisfaction when Asami appreciated her inane comments and she grinned back.

 

“Have you used the hot tub yet?” Korra asked as she paced along the windows and admired the snow covered trees that shielded the home from a direct view of the slopes. They’d passed the outdoor tub on their way in and Korra had nearly squealed aloud when she saw it. 

 

“A few times.” Asami started stacking the cookies. Korra was left looking out at the hot tub framed by a picturesque row of snowy pines and imagining Asami steaming in the water, all alone, in a dark bikini that contrasted exquisitely with her milky skin. Uh, what? What was with her mind today? 

 

She turned abruptly from the window and strode into the kitchen. Across from Asami, she stooped over the small island to peer at the object of the engineer’s focus. “What’s that?”

 

A slow, knowing smile spread across Asami’s soft lips. Soft?! Where is all this coming from? “It’s the plan.” Asami said, as if that explained everything.

 

“For what?”

 

“The gingerbread house.” She didn’t even look up, just kept stacking cookies.

 

“Isn’t a gingerbread house just like, four pieces with a roof?” Korra asked, trying to make sense of the upside down sketches in front of her.

 

At that, Asami looked up. She stared at Korra blankly for a second then started chuckling at her. 

 

“What?!” Korra demanded, mildly offended.

 

“It’s nothing. Sometimes I just forget that we’ve only known each other a couple weeks.” Oh. Me too. Korra found herself sighing but still didn’t understand what that had to do with anything. She stayed silent and waited for Asami to explain further.

 

“If you’d known me in college and seen any of my engineering projects, you’d know I never do anything the simple way.”

 

“Oh I do know that, Asami.” Korra interjected. “I teach you, remember?” 

 

Asami blinked at her then laughed. “I guess you’re right. Well then you won’t be surprised when I tell you this isn’t a simple gingerbread house.”

 

“What is it then?” Her curiosity gnawed at her.

 

“It’s a scale model of the rental house.” Asami said proudly.

 

“No.” Korra breathed, choking back a laugh.

 

“Mhmm. Down to the hot tub.” Stop making me think about you in that hot tub.  

 

Korra ran around the island and pushed Asami gently aside to have a closer look at the sketches. She made out the shapes and dimensions and laughed out loud when she finally put it together. “Asami,” She giggled. “You are such a nerd.”

 

“Born and raised.” The engineer said resolutely. Then her voice grew more serious and Korra frowned. “It’s... actually part of the tradition. Every year, my father and I would select a house or a sculpture that was totally out of the ordinary. Half the work was in the planning and design to scale it down. One year we made a model of the first Satomobile ever produced.” Asami smiled wistfully at the memory and Korra softened. 

 

She stepped closer and wrapped a comforting arm around Asami’s shoulders. “That sounds very ‘Sato’ indeed.” Asami nodded softly. “Let’s nerd it up then!” Korra wanted more than anything to lift her spirits. “How do we put it together?”

 

Like a light, Asami’s eyes brightened at the question. She started pointing at the sketches excitedly and rambling about getting the frosting consistency just right, which was why it had been in the fridge overnight, and how to support the structure during assembly and Korra completely lost herself in the palpable joy emanating from the woman. 

 

She had to interrupt once she realized she was no longer listening in order to prevent herself from staring too long at the adorable blush of enthusiasm forming on Asami’s cheeks. “Asami. You’re losing me.” The engineer stopped and blinked at her, dazed. “Why don’t we just get started and you can explain as we go?”

 

“O-Okay.” She looked even more flustered now and it was too cute.

 

This woman is a genius . Seriously, she’d planned and cut every single wall of her rental house without even being able to measure it from the outside. She’d melted hard candy in the oven with the cookies to make sugar glass for the windows. She’d modified a traditional gingerbread recipe to increase the ‘dimensional stability’ of the dough, whatever that meant. And every individual piece had a purpose perfectly matched to the schematics she’d drawn. She is so cool. That probably made Korra a nerd, too. Whatever. I’m here for it.

 

Korra glanced up from where she held the last two walls upright as frosting dried between them. Asami finished gingerly balancing a roof panel on the other side and swiped a hand across her forehead, leaving a large white streak of sugary paste in its wake. The instructor giggled. “You have something on your face.”

 

The engineer looked up, befuddled at the interruption. “Huh? Where?” She wiped at her face a few times, leaving additional frosting smudges wherever she touched with fingers she hadn’t bothered to clean. 

 

Korra laughed aloud at the sight, barely able to eek out a warning for Asami to stop. “Y-you’re… ha… just making it… ha ha ha… worse. ” She chuckled out the last shudder of laughter. “Stop touching your face. Your hands are covered in frosting.”

 

“Oh.” Asami looked down at her culpable fingers. “Oops.” She went to the kitchen sink and dampened the corner of a towel, then walked to stand in front of Korra. “Show me where.” Asami demanded, holding the towel at the ready. 

 

Korra giggled and slowly released the gingerbread, watching to make sure it would stay in position before abandoning her post. She hovered a finger over Asami’s forehead. “There.”

 

Asami wiped a third of the streak away and Korra laughed. “That’s not all of it.” Asami tried again, this time increasing her success rate to about 50%. Korra cackled. “Keep trying.”

 

“Ugh.” Asami rolled her eyes and shoved the towel at Korra. “ You do it then.”

 

Asami crossed her arms in a huff as Korra took the towel. She grasped Asami’s chin with her free hand, tugging it slightly downward. “Hold still. You made a mess.” Korra reached up and dabbed at the various smudges with the damp corner, turning Asami’s face in her hand as she worked. She lifted up on her toes to get the last bit of frosting that stuck to a few strands of Asami’s hair near her forehead. 

 

Asami’s breath tickled her forearm and she tensed. Only then did it strike her that maybe a mirror would have been equally effective for this activity. And it wouldn’t have put her within inches of Asami’s face while holding her chin gently between her fingers. It also would have spared her this intense moment of realization, when she became hyper aware of how smooth Asami’s skin felt in her hand, how wonderfully plump Asami’s lips were, and all the different ways she could easily turn this touch into something else. Nope. Don’t read into it, Korra. This is fine. She was helping out a friend. Asami had asked. No biggie.

 

Korra sank back to her heels and returned the towel, rejecting the jolt she felt when Asami’s fingers grazed hers. She returned her focus quickly to the gingerbread house as Asami walked away. “What’s next?”

 

“The roof and then the hot tub.” Asami answered over her shoulder. “Then we have to wait for it to set before decorating.”

 

They set about their business without delay and completed the structure within minutes. Korra admired their handiwork and nodded appreciatively. “You would have never gotten this done by yourself.” She teased.

 

Asami chuckled. “You’d be surprised. I’m good with my hands.” The woman winked at her. Korra laughed. She had to. Otherwise the jibe would’ve meant way more than it should have.

 

“I could have done it.” Asami doubled down. Then conceded a moment later. “Just might’ve taken me like… all day.”

 

“So what are you going to do with all this free time I just bought you?” Korra raised her eyebrows.

 

“Well…” Asami checked the time on the kitchen clock. 12:25pm. “I don’t suppose you want a glass of wine? It’s past noon.”

 

“Sure.” Korra chuckled. On a holiday, why the hell not?

 

Asami went to the built-in wine fridge-- this house is epic --to grab a bottle. She brought four wine glasses to the table and took a deep breath as she set them down. Her demeanor had visibly darkened and it gave Korra pause. She cocked her head, asking the unspoken question.

 

“It’s something my father and I used to do.” Asami began shakily. “I hope y-you don’t mind if--”

 

“I’m good, Asami, don’t worry.” Korra asserted. She reached over and put a comforting hand on Asami’s shoulder.

 

Asami sighed heavily and closed her eyes before explaining. “Every Christmas, while we were working on the gingerbread house, my father would open a bottle of wine. He would pour us each a glass and…” another shaky breath “... he would pour an extra, for my mother.”

 

“Your mom?”

 

“Yes. She died when I was five.” Asami said quietly. Korra cursed herself internally for not having known somehow. The engineer had mentioned her father a handful of times but had never spoken about any other family and it hadn’t occurred to Korra that there could be so much more loss behind what Asami had told her.

 

“Asami.” Korra’s heart split open and she couldn’t help stepping closer and grabbing her friend’s hand. She laced their fingers together and squeezed, offering all the support she could, placing her other hand on top of their joined ones. All she could think about was easing Asami’s burden, being there, and comforting her. Screw the awkward, tentative closeness floating between them. Asami needed solace and Korra would give as much as she had to offer. 

 

“A-anyway…” Asami spoke up again after a laden silence. “He always poured a glass for my mother. For her memory. To… ‘invite her into our day,’ he always said.” Korra squeezed Asami’s hand again as she wavered. After another deep breath, she continued. “Unusual as they were, I want to continue the traditions I had with my father. Which means…” Asami gestured to two of the wine glasses and her breath hitched. “A full, un—” Her voice cracked and she cleared her throat. “...untouched glass for each of the loved ones who are not here today.”

 

Korra swallowed as she held Asami’s hand and gazed at the woman, who stared blankly at the empty glasses in front of them. There was so much to be felt and so little to be said. After Asami didn’t move for several seconds, Korra realized there was more she could do.

 

She stepped forward, releasing their joined hands, and reached for the corkscrew. She glanced back for permission, not wanting to overstep. The soft green eyes held nothing but gratitude and sorrow as Asami nodded feebly. Korra nodded back and uncorked the wine. She looked at Asami once again, then poured a serving in each of the four glasses.

 

Before setting the bottle back on the table, she ran over to the cupboard where Asami had retrieved the stemware and grabbed one more. She set it next to the filled cups and poured a fifth. When Asami looked at her, eyebrows furrowed in question, Korra explained as simply as she could. “My uncle.” 

 

Asami nodded solemnly, understanding and immense gratitude filling her eyes. She smiled softly at Korra, who picked up two glasses and extended one to her. Asami’s fingertips brushed along the back of Korra’s hand as she reached to take the glass. “Thank you.” She whispered.

 

Korra watched as Asami walked to the table and set each tribute on the tablecloth in front of a chair. She came back when she finished and released a strong steadying breath. A hint of moisture glistened in her green eyes as she raised her wine glass. “To remembering.”

 

Korra met the glass with her own, finding her own emotions welling as they clinked together. She thought about her uncle Unalaq and the picture of him that hung in her parents’ home. She remembered how much he had taught her alongside her cousins. And she remembered the void left behind when he passed. “To remembering.” Korra agreed.

 

They locked eyes, blue riveted on green, as they sipped. Asami broke the contact to look into her glass and Korra felt... bereft. Come back…  

 

She blinked, startled by the sudden yearning tightening across her chest. The weighted moment and the sorrow must have left her really out of sorts. She forced the loneliness away by looking down as well. 

 

“This is a really nice wine.” Korra honestly didn’t know what the hell she was talking about but, after the intensity of what she’d just felt, anything would suffice as a distraction.

 

“It is.” Asami said into her drink as she took another sip. Korra followed suit. When she looked up, their eyes met once more and Korra’s chest swelled for the split second before Asami turned away.

 

Distressed by the emptiness that struck her yet again, she decided to move the conversation in a different direction. Any direction, really. “So, are there any other traditions for today?”

 

Asami looked at her again and Korra smiled. I like it too much when you look at me. Korra shut down the thought as soon as it came. 

 

“Nothing other than this...” Asami gestured to the table with their masterpiece and the three glasses. “... and watching a few Christmas movies.”

 

Now that, I can do. Korra tried not to seem too excited at the prospect so as not to disrespect any of what they’d already done. But she needed the distraction, desperately. “Which movies?”

 

“None in particular; it changed every year.” Asami said with a shrug.

 

“What are your favorites?” 

 

“I’m a sucker for the rom coms… Love Actually. The Holiday. They’re shamelessly cheesy but that’s part of the charm.” Asami said sheepishly. “What about you?”

 

Me too! Sirens and alarms blared somewhere in the back of her mind, warning against the potential situation about to unfold. But I can’t let myself watch a mushy lovey-dovey movie with you alone in your house.  

 

“Home Alone, definitely. Elf, too.” Korra suggested anything explicitly non-romantic, hoping Asami would bite. “And I know it’s controversial, but Die Hard.”

 

Asami barked out a laugh. “Die Hard is not a Christmas movie.”

 

“I said what I said.” Korra shook her head pointedly. Asami frowned at her playfully. Korra forcefully ignored the adorable pout. 

 

“Fine.” The engineer rolled her eyes but the smile never left her lips. “I think we can agree on Home Alone. Sound good?”

 

“Works for me.” Korra flashed her best grin and the warnings finally stopped strobing in her head.

 

**

 

That grin was too much of everything. Too confident. Too cute. Too lopsided. Too fun. Too inviting. Stop it, Asami. Korra is off limits.

 

She’d repeated that phrase to herself at least a dozen times in the last two hours. Maybe a few hundred times if she counted the continuous chanting she’d done in her head when Korra was inches from her face, holding Asami’s chin softly with her fingertips. Honestly, how much closer could Korra have gotten to clean frosting off her forehead? Much, much closer, Asami. Don’t pretend you weren’t thinking about it.

 

She shuddered at the thought. It was true; she’d considered it. But mainly as a thought experiment. She wanted to be prepared, to know how to react if Korra, in that unexpectedly intimate moment, decided to follow through and kiss her. It had been a stupid idea. The moment she thought about Korra’s lips on hers was the moment she had to fight staring at them. After that, her eyes wandered aimlessly over Korra’s face searching for anything to focus on besides her mouth. They found full dark lashes, strikingly blue eyes, a freckle here and there, the pattern of a faded scar along her hairline… she discovered and absorbed several things about Korra in those few moments. All to stop thinking about kissing her. And all the things she found made her want to kiss her more. Ugh, Sato no . Friends. And INSTRUCTOR.

 

Asami grew frustrated at her thoughts while she set up the movie on her television. It wasn’t fair to think of Korra that way and complicate their friendship. The woman had been nothing but welcoming and kind since they’d met and had done honestly very little to indicate she felt anything other than a platonic interest in Asami. Not to mention she was in a relationship.

 

Don’t screw with something good . And good it was. Korra was the most warm-hearted person Asami had ever met. Who else would give up their plans for Christmas Day to spend it supporting a friend they’d barely known for a month? And who else had ever made her feel so understood with barely a word? Korra had taken a tough day for Asami and turned it completely on its head. She eased the burden of the extra wine glasses, a tradition Asami had doubted she’d be able to get through on her own. Korra had even partaken, reminding Asami wordlessly that she was not alone in her grief and giving her hope for easier days ahead. I mean seriously, no one is this great. I will not mess this up. Friends. Good thing they weren’t about to watch something romantic.

 

The movie flew by, helped along by several more glasses of wine and helpings of candy that had been reserved for decorating the gingerbread house. They laughed and quoted their favorite lines and suffused Asami’s day with the quiet joy that she’d grown accustomed to throughout her childhood. Perhaps it was strange that she felt as comfortable with Korra as if she were family. Asami didn’t bother to care; she took what enjoyment she could from the presence of her friend.

 

Before she’d registered the time, they’d moved on to the second film in the series and began using the candy to decorate in earnest. Korra’s phone rang. 

 

“Hey babe, Merry Christmas!” Korra said with a smile into the device, free hand carefully positioning a gummy candy on the cookie roof. Asami looked up for an appropriate amount of time at the interruption, but chose not to dwell on the unwarranted disappointment that crossed her mind at the thought of Kuvira. Her eyes were drawn back up when the cheeriness evaporated from Korra’s voice. “Huh? Whaddya mean?”

 

Asami watched as Korra put down the wrapped chocolate she’d been about to place on the house and stepped back from the table, brows furrowed in what looked like a mix of confusion, mild disbelief, and the beginnings of anger. Before Asami could observe further, Korra looked straight at her and mouthed out a ‘one minute’ before retreating to the hallway to field the conversation.  

 

Hm . The engineer redirected her thoughts to the task in front of her, knowing full well she had no place being interested in the exchange she’d witnessed.

 

It did feel like her business, however, when Korra came back into the room a few minutes later frustrated and flushed. “Korra. Is everything okay?” Asami gritted her teeth when she saw a little dampness in Korra’s normally genial blue eyes.

 

“Fine.” The instructor dismissed the question. Then she blinked and looked up, surprised by the bite in her tone. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that.” She landed wide apologetic eyes on Asami and the engineer melted. 

 

“It’s okay. Just want to make sure you’re alright.” Asami said, returning her gaze intently.

 

Korra dropped her eyes to the floor. “Yeah, I am. It’s just a… misunderstanding.” She sounded embarrassed. “Sorry for walking off like that.”

 

Despite her concern, Asami noted the instructor’s unease and decided instead to offer a graceful change of topic. “No worries. It gave me a chance to fix your decorations a bit.” Asami injected a hint of playfulness in her tone and Korra took the bait.

 

She gasped in mock outrage. “How dare you? It was a masterpiece .” Korra walked gingerly over to her side of the creation with her hand over her eyes, theatrically shielding herself from the abomination she was about to experience. Asami guffawed and commended herself for a distraction well delivered.

 

“Oh.” Korra said, dropping her hand from her face. “It looks nice.”

 

“Of course.” Asami retorted categorically.

 

“But you didn’t actually do that much.” The instructor crossed her arms and leveled Asami with an adorable look that was a cross between insistence and a pout. 

 

“That’s right.” Asami laughed back. “You did pretty well for a first-timer.”

 

The lopsided grin that split Korra’s face drew out an equally foolish smile from the engineer. With the uneasy interruption to their otherwise perfect day behind them, they continued amiably decorating the gingerbread house. Korra consumed nearly as much candy as she put on the walls and Asami teased her for it relentlessly. In turn, the instructor harassed Asami for how slowly and methodically she decorated, finishing one wall in the time it took Korra to complete three.

 

The relaxed good-natured quips carried them through their task until Korra checked the time on her phone. She frowned and clicked it off. “I have to go soon.”

 

“Aw, but we’re almost done!” Asami hadn’t actually meant to sound so whiny and pleady, but there it was. What the hell is wrong with you?

 

Korra grinned at her, raising an eyebrow. “I think we can probably finish. But I have to get Naga squared away and get ready for dinner.”

 

Right, dinner. “How are you even hungry after all that candy?” 

 

Korra’s grin got bigger. “Oh, you’d be surprised.”

 

Asami laughed aloud at how unnecessarily proud the woman was of her appetite.

 

They made quick work of the last few decorations and Korra helped tidy up before retrieving her jeans from the dryer. Asami walked her, Naga, and their sled out the back door and to the path that led to the slopes. “Shit.” Korra paused midstep.

 

“What is it?” Asami turned back.

 

“It’s past four. The station’s closed, which means the Snow Cats are out grooming the runs… it’s not safe to be out there on foot without a radio, so I can’t walk or sled back to base. Damnit.” Korra looked down, eyebrows drawn together.

 

“Oh.” It took no more than a second for Asami to solve Korra’s problem. “I can drive you.”

 

“Really? You sure?” Korra’s hopeful, grateful stare erased any doubt Asami had about whether this was the right idea.

 

“Absolutely. It’s the least I can do after you basically rescued me from the day I had planned.”

 

Korra blushed a touch and grabbed the back of her neck. “It was no big deal.”

 

“It was to me.” Asami asserted and Korra’s cheeks turned a shade redder. “Which is why I’m going to drive you home. And don’t you dare say no because I happen to know that you have no better option.”

 

Korra smiled softly as she nodded, accepting the offer. “I actually just need to get to my car; I parked at staff parking near the village.”

 

“Even less reason for you to resist. Come on, let’s go Naga.”

 

Naga followed her just as she’d hoped and Korra was forced to come along. Yes

 

Korra squealed when they walked into the garage. “Oh my god. Is that…” she bounded over to Asami’s 2-door SUV and ran a hand lovingly over the dark blue paint. “... the new Stallion?!”

 

“It is.” Asami said, unable to contain her self-satisfied smile. This vehicle had barely been released to the public; she reserved the first sellable non-prototype for herself to purchase before it was even in production. Future Industries’ revival of an old off-roading classic had sparked some serious hype over the last few years and Asami swelled with pride every time her employees’ efforts were recognized so reverently. Not least because this engine had been her main project prior to becoming CEO. She could not wait to see more of them on the road. But for now she settled for showing her baby off to whomever would appreciate it.

 

“Ahhhh, it’s so beautiful.” Korra walked around to the front and admired the grille. “I didn’t even know these were on sale yet!”

 

“Well… they aren’t. Not quite yet.” Asami spun the keys around her finger. “Wanna drive?”

 

Korra’s eyes flew wide open and she whirled to the engineer. “Are you serious?”

 

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

 

“Because this car isn’t even for sale yet and, and…”

 

“Do you know how to drive?” Asami raised her eyebrows.

 

“Well yeah.” Korra shook her head incredulously.

 

“Then drive.” Asami tossed the keys and Korra caught them without blinking. She looked at the fob in her hand, then back up at Asami, and grinned when she saw the engineer showed no hesitation on her face.

 

Naga hopped up into the trunk and Asami sighed happily at the loud thrum of the engine turning over.

 

Korra looked at her with a wide silly grin. “I wouldn’t have pegged you for a car girl.” She deadpanned.

 

Asami stared at her flatly. “Oh you don’t know the half of it honey.” The instructor just raised her eyebrows in an intrigued response, then idled them out of the garage.

 

“Wow this drives great.” Korra admired as they took the winding curves down through Asami’s neighborhood. “Did you work on this one at all?”

 

Asami’s giddiness about her project was only rivaled by her nervous excitement that Korra was the one admiring her work. “I did, actually. It was basically my team’s engine before the ‘promotion.’”

 

“Well done you.” Korra said appreciatively and Asami’s cheeks burned from her broad smile.

 

They drove in silence, broken only by the few directions Asami gave to guide them out of the neighborhood. Korra knew the way after that.

 

When they pulled up next to one of the few cars in the near-empty lot, Korra turned to Asami and smiled. “Thanks for the ride. That was awesome.”

 

“Merry Christmas.” Asami smirked.

 

“Best present ever.” Korra said, squeezing the steering wheel.

 

“You can come drive it whenever you want.” Asami offered with a laugh before she realized how awkward that sounded. Fix it. Quick. “The more it gets driven and people see it, the more hype it builds. It’s good for business.” She winked.

 

“Oh well, in that case I’ll be by every week to take it for a spin.” Korra teased. She grew more serious as she said, “But also, thanks for letting me hang out today. I… had a really nice time.”

 

“Thank you , Korra.” Asami felt a lump rise to her throat, too grateful for her friend’s selflessness to control the slight waver in her voice. “Today was always going to be a difficult day for me. But having you around made it a good day as well. I really can’t thank you enough.” She turned to the back of the car. “Well, you and Naga of course.”

 

Korra’s kind, shy smile warmed Asami’s heart. “It was good for me, too.” She said earnestly. Then she leaned across the console and pulled Asami into a soft hug. Korra held her firmly, as if trying to convey something more than what she’d said aloud. “See ya Wednesday.” Korra pulled away and got out of the car.

 

Asami stepped out and met her by the trunk to say goodbye to Naga. “I hope I see you soon, baby girl.” Asami said lovingly to the pup. She waved to Korra as they walked away, then settled herself into the driver's seat.


As she scooted the seat rearward, she thought about how strong Korra’s arms felt around her shoulders and wondered at the familiarity of the scent of her shampoo. She sighed longingly, remembering the short embrace. Korra had felt so right against her; warm, safe, and comfortable. She blinked, realizing that if a simple hug inspired those feelings, it would probably be wise to avoid holding Korra ever again.

Chapter Text

Asami [9:33pm]

Don’t hate me.

 

Asami [9:33pm]

I changed our ski lesson for tomorrow.

 

Korra frowned at her screen. After rifling through all the possible options to convey her disappointment, she settled on blunt simplicity.

 

Korra [9:35pm]

=(

 

Asami [9:35pm]

Lol you don’t even know what I did

 

Korra [9:35pm]

Well?

 

Asami [9:36pm]

I’m bringing two extra adults. Sorry in advance.

 

She grinned. At least they would still see each other. 

 

Korra [9:36pm]

I’ll try not to be too grumpy. Who are they?

 

Asami [9:37pm]

Friends from home, visiting for New Years.

 

Korra [9:37pm]

You have friends???

 

Asami [9:37pm]

-__-

 

Asami [9:37pm]

I was going to invite you to hang with us after the lesson but now I’m not so sure…

 

Korra [9:38pm]

Jk jk. I promise I’ll be nice.

 

Asami [9:38pm]

Fine. Pack a bathing suit.

 

Korra [9:38pm]

For what?

 

Korra [9:39pm]

What are we doing?

 

Korra [9:40pm]

Hello?

 

Crickets. Damnit Sato . Korra groaned at the lack of information but did as instructed and shoved an old blue two-piece suit into her work bag for the next day.

 

-

 

The man wrapped her up into a giant bear hug. “N-nice to meet you, uh…”

 

“Name’s Bolin.” He said cheerily as he released her. “Asami’s told me all about you and how you’ve been looking out for her! We really appreciate it.” His goofy smile and honest green eyes made him instantly likeable.

 

Korra grinned at him then raised an eyebrow at Asami. “Been talkin’ about how great of an instructor I am?”

 

The engineer rolled her eyes but Korra caught the slight blush against her pale skin. 

 

“She’s given you rave reviews.” The green-eyed woman that accompanied Bolin emphasized her words just so . That sounded rather compelling. Especially when Asami’s blush grew that much more noticeable. “I’m Opal.” The woman extended her hand and Korra shook it.

 

“Nice to meet you Opal.” Korra smiled, reminding herself not to get caught up in discerning what Opal meant by rave reviews . “So, Asami tells me you two are visiting for the holiday! Anything in particular you want to see while you’re here?”

 

“Skiing-wise or… something else?” How was it that Opal still managed to sound suggestive?

 

“Skiing.” Korra smirked. “For now.” She winked. Two can play this game.

 

“Oh, I like her.” Opal turned to Asami with a giddy smile and the engineer rolled her eyes again.

 

“Ski first.” Asami said through a chuckle.

 

Bolin, who had been looking between them as if knowing he’d missed something, spoke up excitedly. “Oh, oh, I want to see the peak!”

 

Opal softened visibly at his boyish enthusiasm and linked an arm through his. So they’re together . “Me too,” she said. “Can’t miss the view.”

 

“Peak, got it. Anything else?” Korra looked around the group. “Anyone interested in an actual ski lesson?” She focused her gaze on Asami’s amused jade eyes. “Or are we just frolicking today?” The blush crept back over her pale cheeks and Korra tried not to feel too pleased with herself.

 

“I could use a refresher, actually.” Opal answered. “It’s been a while.”

 

“Yeah… that’s probably a good idea…” Bolin sounded almost sad at the prospect of class and Korra couldn’t help but laugh.

 

“Don’t worry Bolin, I won’t make it boring.” She patted him on the shoulder and he smiled at her hopefully.

 

“But we will get to frolic after, right?” He looked between Asami, Opal, and Korra. “I mean, that sounded like a lot of fun!”

 

Asami laughed heartily and the depth of the sound made Korra smile. She really loves these two. “Of course, Bo.” The engineer reassured. “I’ll cut Korra off if she gets too carried away with teaching.”

 

“Like hell I will.” Korra retorted. “Betcha you won’t even notice you’re learning Bolin.” She winked and pointed to the closest lift. “Let’s get going. Is everyone comfortable riding the chairlift?”

 

She was met with enthusiastic nods on all sides and returned Asami’s wide grin as she lowered her goggles over her eyes.

 

“So how do you all know each other?” Korra asked as the four of them settled in for their first ride up.

 

“Asami and I go way back.” Opal answered first. “We met in high school.”

 

“And towards the end of college they finally let me and Mako start hanging with them.” Bolin teased.

 

Opal snorted, rolling her eyes. “Oh don’t you complain. You were barely a sophomore and got to spend time with all the seniors just cuz of your ‘big bro.’”

 

You didn’t seem to mind.” He leaned suggestively towards Opal and Korra laughed, imagining his thick eyebrows wiggling beneath his goggles.

 

“I definitely didn’t.” His girlfriend (has to be) said seductively. She turned to kiss him but ended up knocking their helmets together awkwardly instead. Bolin pouted as the rest of them cracked up.

 

“And your brother? Couldn’t make it?” Korra followed with another question.

 

“Welllll...” Bolin began to explain.

 

“Long story.” Asami shut down the answer abruptly. Oh. Okay then...

 

After a heavy pause, Bolin broke the silence. “He’s okay, you know.” He turned to Asami and his voice switched to sheepish and gentle from the joking tone Korra assumed was his norm. “He doesn’t h—”

 

“Bo.” Asami's voice was firm but kind. “Maybe now is not the best time… we can talk about that later, okay?”

 

“Yeah. Okay!” Bolin didn’t sound disappointed, to Korra’s surprise. Maybe he planned on bringing it up another time. Whatever it was. She tried not to let her curiosity get the best of her.

 

Opal didn’t let the awkward silence last for more than a second. “After college we all ended up finding jobs in the city, so we stuck together ever since.” She smiled turning to Asami. “Best crew a girl could ask for, amiright?”

 

“Definitely.” The loving smile Asami returned to Opal left Korra feeling a touch possessive before she remembered Opal and Bolin were an item. Gah! This needs to stop.

 

The chairlift rescued her from herself. They lifted the bar and skidded off to the closest beginner run and she commenced her typical first-time student observation. Bolin’s stocky breadth turned out to be mostly muscle combined with natural athleticism and he picked up on Korra’s instruction instinctively. Opal was all litheness and control, and she comfortably navigated each exercise Korra gave them.

 

Before long, after a handful of drills and increasingly difficult runs, Korra gauged the group was well-matched enough to allow for an enjoyable afternoon of touring instead of teaching. Bolin whooped loudly when she shared the news atop a hill that broke into a dozen runs in varying directions.

 

“Before we go… I wanna see what you got, Korra!” He exclaimed.

 

“What?” The instructor turned to him.

 

“You’ve been watching us ski all afternoon! I want to see how the master does it.” He crossed his arms.

 

“You know that’s not how a lesson works, right?” Korra chuckled.

 

“Who cares?” His hands went up in the air and he turned to his friend. “Asami have you ever seen her ski? And I mean like, really ski?”

 

“Actually…” The engineer quirked her head to the side. “I don’t think so.”

 

“Don’t you want to??” Bolin leaned closer to her, egging her on.

 

“I mean, sure.” Asami said nonchalantly, shrugging.

 

Korra bristled at the near-disinterest from Asami. That casual shrug unearthed a deeply suppressed urge to show off and leave the woman staring agape. She turned to Bolin with a confident smirk and planted her hands on her hips.

 

“Alright.” She puffed up her chest. “What do you want to see?”

 

“Oo oo how about the terrain park?!” He clapped his hands together excitedly.

 

The suggestion stole the wind from Korra’s sails. She could do it. Probably. It certainly wouldn’t be her first time catching air and hitting rails. She’d be lying if she told herself she didn’t miss the exhilaration of landing a well-executed maneuver at an ungodly speed. But every time she thought about landing, she also thought about that landing. The one that hadn’t gone as planned. She shuddered, remembering the horrifying sounds of that day, sounds a body should never make if it hopes to survive. Korra’s vision began to darken as she felt herself drifting inward into the memory. Opal’s voice snapped her back to reality.

 

“That’s not fair, Bo.” The short-haired woman said. “Even some of the best skiers don’t do that sort of thing. Right, Korra?”

 

“Um. Right.” Korra knew she could have done it. Should have been able to do it, rather. But she took the easy exit that Opal offered her. 

 

“Oh…” Bolin lifted a hand to his chin and hummed as he considered his other options.

 

“Moguls?” Asami offered. Korra couldn’t help but grin. She knew how much Asami wanted to improve her mogul skiing. And how hesitant the engineer was on that type of run. Flexing her bump-skiing muscles was a sure fire way to make Asami forget her disinterest. I probably shouldn’t care this much. Whatever.

 

“Let’s do it!” Korra guided them to the opening of a wide bowl. The steeper center was studded with skier-made bumps while the gentler blue runs along the side allowed for anyone to avoid the more challenging spots if needed. She pointed out the easier ways down and told them to go ahead of her, ensuring she could still get to her students if anything went wrong.

 

The three made their way quickly down the sides of the bowl, Asami dipping once or twice between moguls for practice, making Korra smile proudly in the process. Once they were safely stopped together off to a side, Korra scanned the snow for her line.

 

She spotted it in a second, took a breath, and flew . Her brows knitted in concentration, but a broad smile split her face as she hopped deftly between bumps. Her skis never missed a beat as she navigated the valleys expertly, picking up speed as she went. God I love this sport. As far as slope, this was far from the steepest she’d conquered. The comfort inflated her confidence and she pushed herself ever faster, eventually catching beats of air under her skis as they skipped left to right beneath her still upper body.

 

Her knee only twinged a little in the last two turns but she ignored it, knowing she’d slow down soon enough. She sprayed snow over Bolin’s skis as she skidded to a stop in front of a clapping crowd of three.

 

“Oh. My. God.” Bolin clutched at the sides of his helmet as his voice hiked up an octave. “That was… AWESOME.”

 

Korra grinned as he turned to his two companions. “Wasn’t that awesome?! So BADASS, AH! Asami is she teaching you to ski like that?! Tell me you’re going to be doing that by the end of the season!” However entertaining it was to watch him literally bounce up and down, Korra couldn’t help but glance at Asami to gauge her reaction.

 

“Well I don’t think I could ever do that. ” She could’ve been somewhat impressed, but it was hard to tell without seeing her face or her eyes. Damnit goggles.

 

“You’d be surprised.” Korra asserted. “You’re better than you think.”

 

“You have no idea what you looked like, do you?” Now Asami sounded awed and Korra’s cheeks scrunched up as her smile nearly reached her ears.

 

“I mean…” Korra tried to casually shrug off the smug satisfaction that thrummed through her at the idea of Asami enjoying her performance.

 

“Seriously!” Bolin chimed in. “You looked like one of those guys in the Olympics! You were all like shoop shoop shoop shoop.” He emphasized each ‘shoop’ with a sideways kick of his hips and the silliness nearly drowned out the pang of sorrow in Korra’s chest at the mention of the Olympics.

 

“It was super hot.” The shock of Opal’s unexpected impression overshadowed Korra’s lament, replacing it with bemusement and a bit of smugness Korra couldn’t shake.

 

“Totally hot.” Of course Bolin had to agree, and Korra laughed out loud. … And Asami? No, Korra, don’t go there. Don’t you dare look at her right now. Do. Not. Do—

 

Damnit. Asami stood still, hands resting on her poles, looking completely casual except for a small smirk on her lips. That tiniest of smiles was enough to make Korra feel smug and still keep wondering if Asami agreed with Opal or not. Geez Korra, stop. She forced herself to look away.

 

“Come on ‘hot stuff.’” Asami’s voice jerked Korra’s head back right in the direction it had come from. “We’ve still got two peaks to hit and only a couple hours left.”

 

Korra’s face couldn’t choose between an open-mouthed stare and a smirk as she turned to lead the group to the base of Whistler’s Peak Express.

 

Many runs, selfies, jokes, and laughs later, her students waited for her at the base of the gondola while she clocked out at the ski school. It had been a riotously fun afternoon. I can’t believe I get paid to do this

 

Korra walked out to the group with her boot bag slung over her shoulders. She’d kept her ski gear on as instructed, but still had no idea what Asami had planned for the rest of the afternoon.

 

“Where are we headed?” Korra asked eagerly.

 

“Home.” Asami said simply. Oh.

 

“Yeahhhh hot tub partyyyy!” Bolin cheered, roping Korra into the excitement immediately. Oh! Hell yes! Korra beamed.

 

Asami and Opal shook their heads and shared an amused glance. The four of them packed into a gondola that took them up just above Asami’s place and skied down to the reflector that marked the location to stop. They shuffled up the path to the house and piled in through the back door, making a friendly ruckus as each of them squeezed out of their boots and snowy gear.

 

Asami took everyone’s boots and gloves, including Korra’s, and hung them on a boot dryer to warm. She turned to the instructor. “Don’t forget to grab those when you head out.” Well thanks for looking out for me, too. “Now, who wants a beer?” The hostess offered.

 

“Me!” Bolin yelped.

 

“Aw, no weed?” Opal leveled some seriously watery puppy dog eyes on Asami. Kai should get some tips from her. “It’s not legal yet back home but here… I was hoping you’d have some. Bummer.”

 

Korra blinked between them. To say she was shocked wouldn’t quite be fair. Marijuana use had become pretty run of the mill since recreational legalization, but she was still getting used to it after spending much of her young life on such a strict regimen.

 

Asami laughed and turned to her dejected friend. “I would never disappoint you like that, babe. I’ve got plenty.” Opal brightened and Korra wondered why she felt weird hearing Asami say ‘babe.’ “I just don’t want you falling asleep in the tub, yeah?”

 

“Ha! Probably a good idea.” Opal laughed as she shook her short dark hair out from her helmet. “I’ll take that beer then.”

 

“Korra?” Asami locked eyes with Korra precisely as she tousled her own hair back into silky voluminous glory after removing her helmet. Must you? Really?

 

“Uhm.” Blink. Breathe. Speak like a human. “Yeah, sounds good.” Nice. 

 

Why did Asami smirk back at her? And that teeny eyebrow twitch? Seriously. For a straight chick she could be awfully flirty sometimes. It shouldn’t have had the effect it did.

 

“Great, beers all around. I’m going to go get changed. Towels are by the back door. Korra, you can use one of the guestrooms if you want to shower after or anything. Make yourselves at home.” She disappeared up the stairs without so much as offering to show Korra where the hell to go.

 

She stood rooted in place for a second before asking for help. “Uh, Opal?” 

 

The green-eyed woman turned to her with a smile. “Yeah?”

 

“I have no idea where the guestrooms are.” Korra admitted.

 

Opal chuckled. “Oh, I assumed you already knew your way around here. Follow me, I’ll show you.” What does she mean by that?

 

Korra folded her clothes into a neat pile and placed them on the chair in the large guestroom. She was not planning on staying the night and felt strange even touching the pristinely made bed. She cursed when she realized she’d forgotten to grab herself a towel from downstairs. Nothing left to do but walk across the house in just her bikini. Great.

 

Her embarrassment lasted about a minute until Bolin crashed out of his and Opal’s room and sprinted past her to the stairs in nothing but his short swim trunks. Opal came running out behind him wearing a patterned green two-piece suit and no towel at all. “Last one there has to bring the beer!” Bolin yelled over his shoulder at Korra.

 

Ah! She hustled down the stairs but it was hopeless. The two were already ten paces ahead of her, wrapping towels around themselves to sprint over to the tub. Eh, whatever . Korra decided she could manage the beers while the other two guests discovered that the first one to the tub had to stand barefoot in the snow to open it up.

 

Korra chuckled to herself at Bolin’s audible squeaks outside as she opened the fridge, searching for her cargo.

 

“Need a hand?” Asami’s voice offered from behind the fridge door.

 

“Oh, yeah, that’d be good.” Korra muttered as she reached in and pulled out three bottles. She eased the door shut a bit so she could hand them to Asami, but resorted to setting them on the counter once she saw the CEO waiting for her in nothing but a dark violet swimsuit that left very little to the imagination. Oh geez.

 

Korra quickly dove back into the refrigerator to hide the intense heat she felt rising to her cheeks and dropping between her thighs. The image of Asami’s subtly toned stomach and eternally long legs was seared permanently into the back of her eyelids. She couldn’t decide if she wanted to close her eyes to appreciate, turn back to see the real thing, or melt into a puddle right on this floor. But she couldn’t pretend to reach for bottles in the fridge forever. Damnit .

 

She took a deep breath and retreated from her cold sanctuary, swallowing hard as she laid eyes on Asami again. Goddamn the woman is gorgeous . It couldn't be wrong to recognize beauty when she saw it, especially when it slapped her in the face like this. This time around, her eyes found the sharp line of Asami’s collarbone as it met her neck and the slope of her chest as it dove into her cleavage. No no STOP. Korra turned quickly back into the fridge. 

 

Please let there be more beer . She found a few more bottles and grabbed two as slowly as she could. Another deep breath and she stood up again, pushing the fridge door closed.

 

Asami moved closer. To grab the bottles that were already on the counter. Right right makes sense. But when she turned to walk away, bottles in hand, Korra was given a marvelous view of the curve of Asami’s back and the round swell of her ass. The bathing suit bottom clearly was not designed to hide anything, its cut much narrower than anything Korra had seen before. It wasn’t quite a thong, but it certainly made things a lot more accessible . Suppressing a wildly inappropriate groan, Korra found herself wanting to trace her fingertips lightly over that lower back, raising goosebumps in her wake as her hands dropped closer and closer to--

 

KUVIRA. Korra’s brain finally remembered she had a girlfriend. Geez, what am I doing? Then again… she had no reason to feel guilty for noticing that someone was good-looking; she and Kuvira talked about other women all the time. Asami was objectively attractive, Kuvira had said so herself. It’s not like anything could happen between them anyway; Asami’s not into women. Korra chuckled; in her position her girlfriend probably would have wolf-whistled at Asami without hesitation to let her know exactly how much she was being appreciated. Not that Korra would ever do that. But that confidence was something Korra always loved about Kuvira, even if it made her a little jealous every once in a while. Though it really had been a while since… anything really. 

 

Maybe that’s why she reacted so intensely to Asami. Yeah, that’s probably it. Good thing Kuvira would be in town this weekend. With Jinora now regularly staying the night at Kai’s, they would get some much needed alone time. Korra grinned at the thought while she walked the drinks out to the hot tub.

 

**

 

“You’re sure you don’t have any feelings whatso—” Opal’s prying question was cut off by Korra pushing the door open with her back, four beers in hand. 

 

Uff. Asami really should have looked away from Korra’s perfectly shaped backside but found her eyes glued to Korra’s bronze skin, glossing over every inch appraisingly. This is inappropriate. I should not be—  

 

The woman had the gall to turn around and show them all that her toned thighs came with a side of very lickable abs. Asami caught a tantalizing glimpse of a few lines of ink peaking over the waistband of Korra’s bikini on her right hip. Lord have mercy. Asami wanted to sink slowly into the warm water and never come up for air again. She couldn’t move. Korra’s eyes riveted her in place, locked on hers, the already piercing blue brightened further by the sky and the turquoise of her suit. She straight up gasped for a breath.

 

Opal summarized her thoughts out loud. “ Damn Korra. You fine.”

 

Impossible as it seemed a moment ago, Korra looked even cuter as her cheeks reddened at the immodest compliment. Korra otherwise ignored the comment and walked to the tub before noticing that everyone already had drinks. She searched for a destination for the bottles she’d brought and found an extra wedged upright in a pile of snow, just reachable from where Asami sat in the hot tub. So, the instructor bent down, right next to Asami , to drive each of her four bottles into the ice. Each time she moved, her arms flexed, her abdomen tightened ever so slightly, and a muscle Asami didn’t know existed twitched in Korra’s leg and dimpled her buttocks. This isn’t fair.

 

The side-eye from Opal burning into her temple brought her back to her senses. Asami turned to face her smirking friend and the woman raised an inquisitively smug eyebrow at her. Asami’s excellent comeback consisted of sticking out her tongue and pouting at her friend. A second later she heard a delicate splash and turned to find Korra had slipped gracefully into the hot tub. The bubbling water now mercifully covered all the temptation below Korra’s shoulders, which were tantalizing enough on their own. Someone please say something.

 

Korra groaned as she adjusted herself so the jets hit her comfortably in the back. No. Not like that. “Wow, this is wonderful.” She breathed out and sank further down into the water. “I didn’t even know I was sore. This feels so much better than an ice bath.”

 

“Doesn't it?” Bolin sighed and spread his arms wide on the edge of the tub.

 

“Too bad it’s not as effective.” Korra mused.

 

“Right?” Bolin glanced sideways at Korra. “No shortcuts for athletics.”

 

“Mhmm.” Korra closed her eyes and tilted her head back. Well, Asami couldn’t say she was surprised Korra had trained as an athlete, all things considered. Bolin had played rugby in college, for the school’s D1 team. That’s how she’d met him and Mako, at a women’s and men’s rugby social. She wondered what Korra had trained for.

 

“What sport?” Bolin asked the question straight out of her thoughts.

 

She watched a line of tension pass across Korra’s shoulders and wondered at the sharp breath she noticed her take before answering. “Ski team. You?”

 

“Ha! Probably should have guessed.” Bo grinned. “Rugby for me. And Asami, too.”

 

“I’m sorry, WHAT?” Korra’s eyes flew open and she stared open-mouthed at Asami. The engineer couldn’t help the smirking back at the stunned instructor. “ Rugby ?”

 

“Mhm.” Asami answered coolly.

 

“You?!” Korra was still agape as Bolin laughed and Opal rolled her eyes.

 

“What? Don’t think I can take a hit?” The CEO cocked an eyebrow.

 

“Don’t answer that, Korra. Really. You’ll thank me later.” Opal teased, but Asami hoped Korra ignored her. For old time’s sake.

 

“Um. N- I mean.” The instructor fumbled on her words. “I-it’s not that. I-I guess you just don’t look like the type?”

 

“The type?” Asami raised her eyebrows as far as she could, feigning offense. Oh this is going to be fun. “And what type is that?”

 

“I dunno… like Bolin.” Korra answered simply. Everyone blinked at her for a second and then crumbled into laughter. 

 

“You’d be surprised at all the ‘types’ you can find on the pitch.” Asami countered after she’d caught her breath.

 

“It’s true.” Bolin jumped in. “Some of the tiniest strongest women I’ve ever met played rugby. Like Opal’s grandmother. What a beast.” His eyes lit up as he spoke reverently about grandma Toph and Opal just rolled her eyes again.

 

Korra looked dumbstruck. “I would love to have seen this.” Oh is that right? Well maybe you can have a look if you really want...

 

Asami and Bo locked eyes and grinned. “Ruck? Loser jumps in the snow?” The engineer suggested. A not-insignificant part of her leapt at the chance to show off a tad. She knew what she looked like. Especially if she was putting effort into something. And Korra’s flustered reaction at their encounter in the kitchen hadn’t escaped her notice. 

 

“A what now??” Korra turned from Bolin to Asami and back again. 

 

“A ruck.” Opal offered, not explaining anything at all. She sighed. “They push, whoever falls back three steps loses.”

 

“Uh-huh…” Korra still looked lost.

 

“So… just right here, on the snow? It’s kinda cold Asami…” Bolin complained shiftily.

 

“What’s the matter Bo, you scared?” Asami stood up, letting the cold air prickle her skin as water sloughed down her front. She noticed Korra turn to her, unable to disguise her staring, and the nearly palpable gaze sent her heart rate sky-high. She told herself it was the cold, not Korra’s meandering eyes, that stiffened her breasts against her bathing suit.

 

“I’m not scared!” Bolin followed suit, hopping out of the tub before Asami. She stepped onto the snow gingerly, ignoring the icicles that became of her toes. “But let’s make this quick because I’m freezing.” He muttered.

 

“If I win you can be doubly embarrassed because you got beat by a back.” Asami grinned as she crouched.

 

“Don’t count your chickens…” Bo smirked back and squatted down to her level. 

 

They brought their shoulders together, heads tucked against each other’s chests and an arm wrapped over the other’s back. Somewhere in the peripheries of her vision, Asami noticed Korra looking at them utterly confused but with a ridiculous lopsided smile on her face.

 

It was bitingly cold. “One, two, three, drive!” Opal called out. Asami pushed. She drew power from her legs and feet planted in the ground—the freezing snow —sending pulses of force up through her quads, across her back and into her shoulders where Bolin pushed back. There was no way she could beat him, realistically. He was twice her size and a forward to boot. But that didn’t mean she couldn’t make him work for it. And give her instructor a show in the process.

 

They struggled against each other for a good twenty seconds before she yielded her third step. “Ha Ha!” Bolin released her and stood up breathlessly. “I win I win I win!” He danced around and hopped back into the tub next to a giggling Korra. Asami was satisfied she’d gotten him flushed at least. Good effort . “Now. Go jump in the snow!” Bolin turned to her and pointed to the pile that held their beers.

 

Asami groaned and he doubled down. “A deal’s a deal.” He squealed. 

 

“Yeah, a deal’s a deal Asami.” Korra. How rude . She leveled a withering stare at her instructor and kept her eyes glued on Korra as she took a few slow steps backwards then held her arms out before flopping backwards into the mound of snow. She waved her arms and legs into a snow angel for good measure, eliciting cheers from her cackling compatriots. Good thing it was soft. And frigid .

 

With just a minor shriek, she scrambled out of her position and vaulted over the tub wall into the welcoming warmth of the water. And onto Korra’s lap. Oops.

 

As she scooted awkwardly away, she mumble-giggled an apology and tried not to notice how smooth Korra’s skin felt against her legs. Or how Korra had gasped and grabbed instinctively at her waist to catch her when she landed .

 

Once they’d settled back down after the friendly competition and Korra conceded that Asami could indeed be the ‘rugby type,’ whatever that meant, Korra broached the topic of the holiday.

 

“What are your guy’s plans for New Year’s Eve?”

 

Everyone turned to Asami. “You know Korra, I was actually hoping to get a recommendation from you… any places in the area have a decent celebration?”

 

“I mean… it depends what you want.” Korra shrugged. “If you’re looking for more of a club scene you probably have to head down to Vancouver… Other than that there’s a few places that’ll do a dinner or something around here.”

 

“Hm. What do you normally do?” Asami probed.

 

“Last year, the ski school threw a party. That was a lot of fun. This year… I dunno we’ll probably head to a bar or something and hang out till midnight. New Years has all this hype around it, everyone always acts like it needs to be this amazing night but I feel like it usually ends up being kind of a bust. Unless you have an event or something to go to, but even then…” 

 

“So… no recommendations besides ‘find a party?’” Asami questioned her.

 

The instructor shrugged apologetically and Asami pushed her further. “Are you throwing a party, Korra?”

 

“Um, no.” As expected.

 

“Bummer. Well I guess I’m all out of people to ask then.” The CEO threw her hands up in exasperation and Korra laughed. 

 

“Why don’t you have a party Asami?” Opal suggested. “You got all this space!”

 

“What?” Asami turned to her, confused. “But I don’t know anyone to invite.”

 

“Hey! I’m right here you know.” Korra pouted from across the tub.

 

“So that would be who? You, Kai, Jinora, Bolin, Opal, and myself. Six. What a party.” Asami deadpanned.

 

“Kuvira will be in town!” Korra offered hopefully.

 

“Okay…” Asami ignored the pang of resentment at hearing that name. “So seven.”

 

“Seven can be a party!” Bolin said, ever the optimist.

 

“Eh…” Asami looked around at her friends. “I’d want it to be a little more than that…”

 

“Are you saying you’ll do it??” Opal leaned forward eagerly.

 

“I didn’t—” she began, only to be cut off by Korra.

 

“If you want to, I can always invite some other friends from the ski school!” She offered excitedly. “I promise they’re all good people. Won’t break anything.” Korra winked and it was way too disarming to be fair.

 

“Uhm…” Asami hesitated.

 

“Aw pleeeaaase.” Bolin piled on with puppy eyes and Opal followed his lead.

 

“It’ll be fun! And you get to make some new friends!” Opal grinned. 

 

Asami knew when she was beat. She couldn’t very well say no to her best friends. And her curiosity was piqued about Kuvira, though the interest warred inside her against a decidedly improper disappointment at knowing she would not have Korra alone at midnight. She sighed loudly, “Alright, let’s do it.”

 

Bolin cheered, Opal clapped, and Korra grinned her adorable lopsided grin. The next few hours were consumed by discussions on planning, preparation, best booze options, and if there should be a theme. This had the potential to turn out rather fun.

Chapter Text

Korra tugged her crop top down as close to her belly button as it would reach. She pouted grumpily at her reflection as the barely-a-shirt bounced back up to its unstretched position a mere two inches below her bra. “Are you sure?” She called over her shoulder.

 

“Yes.” Two warm, confident hands slid over her exposed abdomen. A finger traced the valley between her muscles from the hem of her top down to the V that dipped low into the waistband of her jeans. Korra groaned as that finger slid beneath her jeans and teased along the top of her pants. “It looks good on you.” Korra shuddered at the words whispered against her ear.

 

She moaned and turned to wrap her arms around Kuvira’s neck. “Are you sure we have to go? We could just stay and celebrate another way…” 

 

Her girlfriend smirked and spread her hands across the soft skin of Korra’s sides. She leaned in close, brushing her lips against Korra’s as she spoke. “We’re going. I want to meet this sexy CEO you’ve told me so much about.” The mix of want and dread that battled in Korra’s stomach made her flinch as Kuvira pecked her lips. “Plus, don’t you want to show her how sexy you are?”

 

She couldn’t help the awkwardness that came over her and she flushed. “She’s straight, Vee.” Korra attempted to laugh off the admittedly enticing image of Asami’s eyes on her, burning her skin as they lingered on her exposed stomach.

 

“So is spaghetti. Until it’s wet.” Kuvira smirked and twitched a self-satisfied eyebrow before pulling back. Korra rolled her eyes at the old joke but chuckled anyway. She wasn’t sure how to feel at the prospect of queer Asami. Excited that she might have another gay friend? Sure. A little concerned about how much time she’d spent noticing the woman? Probably also that. 

 

“Wait. You’re not gonna try anything, are you?” Korra panicked, suddenly very uncomfortable with the idea of Asami meeting her girlfriend.

 

“Who, me?” Kuvira’s eyes widened innocently as she shrugged on a white blazer over the dark green tank she wore. “Why would I do that?” 

 

Kuvira trailed off and reached into her back pocket to grab her buzzing phone. She unlocked it and smiled softly at whatever she saw on the screen before typing a quick reply and shoving the device back where it had been. 

 

“Let’s get going.” Her girlfriend’s voice went from playfully teasing to seriously flat in a matter of seconds and Korra frowned.

 

“Everything okay?” She asked, slipping an arm into her favorite leather jacket.

 

“Hm?” Kuvira turned her head on her way out of Korra’s room. “Yeah, fine.”

 

They stopped by the liquor store on the way up to Asami’s. After basically forcing the engineer to host, her friends weren’t about to let her foot the whole bill. Korra had been put in charge of champagne. She and Kuvira walked out with one bottle per expected attendee. 

 

“Don’t think this is too much?” Korra wondered at the case she carried.

 

“Definitely not.” Kuvira waved off her concern. “This way no one will need champagne glasses.”

 

Korra laughed, imagining the gasps of delight when each guest was surprised with a full bottle as midnight approached. 

 

Asami’s eyebrows nearly hit her hairline when she saw the case in Korra’s arms as she opened her front door. “Hi!” She looked radiant, smooth skin aglow and cheeks rouged either by blush or the beginnings of tipsiness.

 

“Let me help.” The engineer grabbed the box from Korra without waiting for a response and nodded a smiling hello in Kuvira’s direction before turning down the hall. “Come on in! We’re all in the kitchen.”

 

Korra flashed an eager smile at her girlfriend, who barely seemed to notice as she walked inside, eyes trailing after Asami. They stepped into the kitchen and Opal was already helping place the last few bottles to chill.

 

Asami walked over from the fridge and extended a hand, “Hi, you must be Kuvira.” Her smile was bright and warm and Korra grinned at her girlfriend.

 

“The one and only.” Kuvira said with a cocky smirk and shook Asami’s hand. “And you ar—”

 

“Korraaa!” She was interrupted from attentively watching the rest of Asami and Kuvira’s interaction when Bolin ran over and hugged her till her toes were dangling above the floor. 

 

“Hi Bolin.” She giggled and patted him on one of his massive shoulders. “Drunk already?”

 

“Wha— no!” He put her down and shook his head furiously. “Not yet anyway.” He grinned and Korra guffawed. “But you’re behind. Let’s get you and… uh…” He turned to Kuvira then gave Korra a questioning glance.

 

“Kuvira.” Korra answered.

 

“Kuvira.” Bolin turned and wrapped her up in an equally oversized hug. Kuvira’s eyes went wide as he wrinkled her blazer and she glared at Korra in despair. The ski instructor simply laughed, thoroughly enjoying the rarity of seeing Kuvira caught by surprise. “Nice to meet you Kuvira!”

 

“Y-you too…” Kuvira said as she straightened out her rumpled clothing. 

 

Korra moved closer and slid a reassuring arm around her waist. “That’s Bolin.” Opal came over. “And this is Opal. Opal, this is my girlfriend, Kuvira.”

 

“Hello Opal.” Kuvira said politely.

 

“Sorry about Bo,” Opal joked. “He’s always been a hugger. He refuses to accept that not everyone else is, too.”

 

Kuvira looked almost uncomfortable as she cleared her throat and for some reason Korra felt absolutely tickled to see her fumbling. “That’s alright.”

 

“Drinks?” Asami sauntered in from somewhere, bringing with her all the light in the room. She was wearing a loose black top, tucked casually into dark red jeans that hugged her legs relentlessly all the way to her ankles, wrapped in a pair of strappy black heels. The kind of pumps that were the only thing you’d want to leave on her after stripping her naked and throwing her on a bed. ‘Fuck me pumps,’ if you will. Korra blinked away the image she’d formed in her mind. Asami’s legs needed no actual help looking infinite and perfect and yet, she’d recruited these shoes to enhance the effect. How can she even walk in those?  

 

Elegantly and effortlessly, apparently. She glided across the room to grab two tumblers and poured a large helping of scotch in each. Her hair was pinned up on one side, framing her sharp jawline and long neck, around which hung a long golden necklace that nestled comfortably in her cleavage. Korra gulped as Asami turned, shrugging silky hair over a bare shoulder as she came back to Korra and Kuvira and handed them their drinks. “Neat or rocks?” She asked sweetly.

 

Kuvira looked up from her concentration on her phone. What the hell, when did she even take it out? She took a step towards Korra and slid an arm around her, gripping the bare skin inside her jacket. “Neat for me.” Kuvira said, putting her phone away, and picked up the tumbler in front of her.

 

“Korra?” Asami turned painted smokey eyes on her.

 

“Um, I’ll take some ice actually.”

 

“Sure.” Asami smiled before walking away and Korra felt warmth explode across her chest. Kuvira’s fingers tightened around her hip. 

 

“So how long have you two been together?” Opal leaned her chin in her hands and blinked at them dreamily.

 

“Five years.” Kuvira answered as Asami came back into view and placed Korra’s iced drink in front of her.

 

“How’d you meeeeet?” Bolin swung in behind Opal, the same glazed look in his round eyes.

 

Kuvira smirked at Korra, who only had a second to panic before the answer. “National ski team.”

 

National ski team?” Asami asked, tucking her nose elegantly into her glass as she sipped.

 

“Oh yes, Korra didn’t mention it?” Kuvira wrapped her arm more tightly around her girlfriend’s waist and Korra tensed. “This cat was the rising star of the Canadian ski team during the Winter Olympics.”

 

Bolin sputtered and Opal’s eyes went wide. Korra sank into herself, intent on avoiding Asami’s eyes for some reason. For the last several years Korra had been running from the person she had been, was supposed to be. That identity had been ruthlessly stripped from her and she’d thrown her entire soul into becoming something beyond it. She struggled with it every day. Kuvira knew that. Korra seethed internally, cursing her for… for what, Korra? Telling your friends something about your life?  

 

Kuvira hadn’t betrayed anything, really. A simple online search would have divulged much more information than that. She had no right to be mad. Hiding the past didn’t change it. What she didn’t want were the expectations that came with that past, everything people asked of her, pitied her for… she wished she didn’t have to deal with this coming out process. That’s certainly what it felt like. 

 

Was? W-what happened?” Bolin asked, leaning forward, eyes glittering with interest.

 

“Bad landing.” Korra said curtly, desperately hoping her tone communicated that she wanted to say nothing more.

 

The doorbell rang, graciously interrupting the conversation for her. Korra shrugged Kuvira’s arm from around her to let the newcomers in. She’d invited every remaining guest besides those already here and was as much hostess of this party as Asami. She noted absently that Kuvira’s hand moved off her hip and straight to her phone in her back pocket. Ugh Vee, could you be a little less rude?

 

Korra planned to take a moment in the hallway to shake off her unease but the clack of Asami’s heels on the hardwood followed her before she’d gotten a few steps away. She turned her head slightly to see if Asami was coming after her but the engineer strode past her calmly, with that unfailing white smile, and moved into the hallway towards the door. Korra followed, intent on welcoming in the other instructors she’d invited.

 

“Wait Asami.” Korra muttered once they were in the hall and out of earshot of the others. Asami turned and regarded her kindly, betraying no expectations whatsoever. Korra sighed. “I-I’m sorry.” 

 

Asami raised her eyebrows in surprise, then furrowed them, puzzled. “For what?” Asami said quietly. Korra was confused, too. She felt awful, for some reason, that Asami had to find out that way. Maybe because she’d wanted to tell her on her own terms? Or maybe because she felt they’d already become close and it was wrong to have hidden such a big part of her past? She hadn’t been actually hiding it though, had she? Either way, something felt... off. She needed to make it right.

 

“For not—” the doorbell rang again. Asami looked apologetically at Korra, sighed deeply, and turned to answer it.

 

Kai, Jinora, and three other ski school instructors blurted all manner of hellos as Asami ushered them in and Korra introduced them. They walked in a loud gaggle to the kitchen where the conversation devolved into more handshakes, introductions, and generous drink pouring.

 

Mercifully, the white noise of it all brought Korra a measure of peace. She smiled as she watched her old friends mingle and laugh with new ones, noting how gracefully Asami drew a chuckle and a smile from each of her guests before moving naturally to engage the next one. Korra glanced to one side and noticed Kuvira was tapping on her screen again. She sighed and stepped close to her, vying for attention against the small handheld device.

 

“Hey.” Korra said quietly, leaning up and giving her girlfriend a kiss on the cheek. Kuvira took several seconds to finish her message and put the phone away, finally looking up.

 

“Hey.” She seemed distant. Korra bristled and wondered how much Kuvira would miss her phone if it ended up at the bottom of the hot tub at some point tonight. Kuvira must have noticed her pout because her eyes shifted a moment later. “Listen. I didn’t realize that you hadn’t told them about the accident. I’m sorry for doing that to you. I know how you feel about it; I shouldn’t have said anything.”

 

Korra softened and felt her eyebrows lifting together. She slid her hands onto Kuvira’s chest, tucked her fingers around the lapels of her blazer to pull her close, and kissed her lips gently. “Thanks, K.”

 

Kuvira nodded solemnly and Korra felt lighter than she had in hours as she pulled back. Jinora’s arms wrapped themselves around her shoulders from behind and Korra smiled, turning around to hug her friend.

 

“Hi Kuvira!” Jinora smiled over Korra’s shoulder.

 

The three caught up for a few minutes. Korra took the opportunity to interrogate her roommate, who she had barely seen as she’d spent so much time at Kai’s over the last several days. Jinora blushed and giggled, making Korra beam at the sight of her so utterly happy. Korra had expected a thousand and one dirty innuendos from her girlfriend about Kai and Jinora’s latest relationship step, but Kuvira only smiled thinly and nodded; answering questions simply and quickly without elaboration. 

 

To anyone else it might have looked normal; the woman wasn’t exactly chatty to begin with. But she’d never have missed the opportunity to make a sexual joke if it was right in front of her. Korra frowned when Kuvira excused herself and watched her pull her phone from her back pocket as she walked away. Ugghhh. So much for feeling better.  

 

The thought was whisked away in a second. “Refill anyone?” Asami came by holding a bottle of significantly less expensive whiskey than she’d poured the first time. Good move , Korra chuckled then smiled at the hostess, holding out her glass.

 

“Oh yes. I am in need . Fill ‘er up.” Korra said while Jinora shook her head ‘no’, showing her half-full cup.

 

A flash of worry passed across Asami’s jade eyes when they found Korra’s and the instructor smiled to assuage her friend. “Thanks.”

 

“Does Kuvira need another?” The CEO asked. You’re being too nice to her . Korra thought immediately.

 

“No, she stepped out for a bit. Work.” The excuse for Kuvira’s behavior flowed out of her before she could think about it.

 

“Wow, that’s unfortunate. This late?” Asami looked at the clock that showed just past 10:30pm and Korra cringed. 

 

“Yeah… military, you know?” She shrugged, hoping the weak reason would fly. Jinora, bless her, nodded in agreement. She had no idea Korra’s explanation was a shot in the dark.

 

Asami seemed to accept it and stuck around to chat until Jinora’s beverage was ready for a refill. Korra caught Asami’s mischievous grin as she poured whiskey into Jinora’s glass and looked her dead in the eye. “So Jinora, has Kai successfully managed to avoid ‘killing the mood’ in the bedroom these last few weeks?” She asked, raising her eyebrows. Korra guffawed, remembering Asami’s shamelessly explicit suggestion at the bar. ‘I won’t fuck you till I hear you beg.’ How could anyone forget?

 

Jinora’s brown eyes widened and her face turned tomato red. Korra laughed out loud while Asami simpered in amusement. They didn’t expect Jinora’s answer after the girl composed herself. “Oh yes. He’s gotten very creative actually. Thanks for the tip.” She winked at Asami and the engineer blinked back at her in surprise before throwing her head back into a throaty laugh. Korra grinned foolishly, thoroughly enjoying the cheeky banter between her friends.

 

Her grin faltered when Kuvira wrapped arms around her from behind and placed a kiss lightly on her neck. “H-hi.” Korra muttered as her body shivered in response to the touch. She wanted to be mad at Kuvira’s absent behavior, she really did. But after being apart for so long, when the woman did things like that , Korra could hardly be held responsible for the way she melted against her.

 

She barely noticed the tendons on Asami’s shoulders tense before the hostess smiled at Kuvira and offered her another beverage. Kuvira answered more into Korra’s neck than towards Asami. “Yes, thank you.”

 

The lips moving against the sensitive skin below her ear quickened Korra’s breath. Oh god K, don’t do this to me in front of other people . She tried to keep her composure as her girlfriend subtly stroked her stomach with her fingertips. She gulped, gritting her teeth into a nonchalant smile as Kuvira teased her out of sight beneath her leather jacket. It certainly did not help that Kuvira’s arms locked her in place, forcing her to stare at Asami, who looked like walking sex as she leaned over the counter to pour Kuvira another drink. Korra concentrated on preventing her eyes from wandering too noticeably over Asami’s lithe frame and curves, feeling her body respond mercilessly to the delicate touches on her abdomen and the provocative woman in front of her. 

 

Eventually, the sex— Asami —found some reason to exit the conversation. Korra had barely heard her excusing herself through the thundering in her ears, but she felt the loss in her chest as she watched her turn away. It doubled when Kuvira unwrapped herself from Korra, smirking as she stepped up next to her. What’s that abo— wait are you serious with that phone again?

 

Korra stared at her girlfriend incredulously as the woman reached into her pocket for her cell and checked it. “Korra?” Jinora’s gentle voice dragged her irritated attention away. “Why don’t we go say hi to Kai?” Her roommate's eyes flicked quickly to Kuvira then back to Korra and widened encouragingly.

 

“Oh. Okay. Yeah, let’s go.” Korra said, glancing over her shoulder at her girlfriend who hadn’t yet looked up. The woman barely noticed them walking away and Korra balled her hand into a fist. What the hell is going on with her tonight?

 

**

 

Opal shoved her backwards into the bathroom before she’d barely taken a step through the doorway. “W-what the fuck?!” Asami demanded as her friend closed the door behind them. “There are probably people waiting, Opal.” She admonished.

 

“Nope. Checked.” Opal waved her hand dismissively at the door. “Girl, we need to talk.”

 

“In here ?” The engineer gestured around them.

 

Opal shrugged, “It’s as good a place as any.”

 

Asami rolled her eyes and sighed, knowing she would get nowhere with Opal standing between her and the door. “Fine. What is it?”

 

“You lied to me.”

 

“I w-what?!” Asami barked incredulously. “No I didn’t. What would I even lie about, O? You know everything there is to know about me.”

 

“That’s right, I do.” Her friend crossed her arms and smirked. “Which is why I know you lied when you told me you’re not into Korra ‘in that way.’ ” Her air quotes felt meaner than she probably meant them to.

 

Asami raised her eyebrows but composed herself. “What are you talking about?”

 

“Oh cut the shit, Asami. You can’t fool me. I see all.” Opal slurred her words just so and Asami snickered, realizing her friend was probably tipsily imagining things.

 

“Okay then, ‘Truth Seer Opal.’ Please. Enlighten me.”

 

“Hmm, let’s see…” Opal began counting off on her fingers. “First, you talk nonstop about this girl on the phone before we come visit, and are absolutely dying for us to meet her.” Nonstop? It wasn’t that bad was it?

 

“Second, she’s really hot.” Asami chuckled and Opal ticked off a third finger. “I haven’t seen you wear shoes like that since some of our most risque college parties.” She pointed down at Asami’s pumps then lifted a fourth finger. “You keep looking at her whenever she’s not paying attention and you smile like a goon everytime she talks to you. Don’t think I don’t see it.” Ouch, caught.  

 

Another finger. “I’ve seen enough of your fake smiles to reporters and unwanted business people to know that you are not a fan of Kuvira (which I’m not either by the way but we can talk about that later).” Well...

 

Opal ran out of fingers on one hand and moved to the next. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you turn redder than when she came out to the hot tub in that smokin’ bikini. Mmm!”

 

“Hey! It was the hot water; I always turn red in there…” Asami argued weakly.

 

“Sure.” Opal lifted another finger. “And did I mention that the woman is a snack ?” She licked her lips. “I’d be all over that if I weren’t such a sucker for Bo.” 

 

Asami rolled her eyes. “Are you finished?”

 

Opal lifted her hand to her chin and looked up, deep in thought, for a good five seconds. “Hmmm yeah. I think that’s it. For now.”

 

“Fine.” Asami crossed her arms and looked down at her best friend. “Now listen to me. Even if all of that were true,” which... “it doesn’t matter at all.”

 

“How could it not matter?!” Opal sounded offended.

 

“Because…” Asami closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Korra’s in a relationship. They’ve been together for five years . I’ve never had a relationship that long with an apartment let alone a person.”

 

“So what? Kuvira’s a wanker.”

 

Asami guffawed at the word. “A wanker , O, really?”

 

“Eh, I’m trying it on for size.” She shrugged. “Not the best?”

 

“Um, no.” Asami chuckled.

 

“Tosser, then? Twat?” Opal listed off a few more words and Asami shook her head, laughing at each one. Finally Opal threw her hands up in defeat. “Bitch then! Kuvira’s a bitch.”

 

Asami couldn’t help but laugh at her irritation but nodded. “Okay I accept.” Opal looked up at her expectantly and Asami remembered her train of thought from a minute ago. “Regardless of what we think of her girlfriend, they are still together. And, based on what I saw out there, it seems like they want to keep it that way.”

 

Opal still didn’t budge, regarding Asami like she wouldn’t take no for an answer. So the CEO continued with excuse after excuse. “I’m not going to break anyone up. I don’t want to be that person.” She said definitively and Opal snorted. “And even if I wanted to, I barely know Korra and I know absolutely nothing about Kuvira.”

 

“Don’t say you barely know her, Asami.” Opal shook her head. “A few weeks is plenty of time to get to know someone.”

 

“Ugh, either way, Opal, nothing’s going to happen! Even if I did have feelings, I wouldn’t want to put myself out there for someone that’s clearly in love with someone else and lives hundreds of miles from New York.”

 

“Aha! So you admit there might be a little part of you that wants—” A knock on the door interrupted Opal’s persistent follow-up and Asami rolled her eyes in both frustration and relief.

 

“Let’s get back to the party.” Asami said softly to her friend. They opened the door together to a surprised Kuvira, whose face turned immediately upward into a bemused smile as they left the bathroom together.

 

“I’m not done with you.” Opal stopped halfway down the hall.

 

Asami turned to her friend. “Look, O. I know that you’re looking out for me and I love you for being so goddamn attentive. But there’s nothing to talk about. I don’t feel anything more than friendship towards Korr— K-Korra, hi!” Asami’s eyes widened and she waved awkwardly to the instructor entering the hallway.

 

Oh no, what’s wrong? She caught Korra’s crestfallen expression before a lopsided smile took its place and hit Asami right between the eyes.

 

“Hey!” Korra said. “Have you guys seen Kuvira?” The question was quiet and hesitant and out of the side of her eye Asami saw Opal raise an intrigued eyebrow. 

 

She chided Opal with an elbow as she took a step towards Korra and the rest of the party. “She went into the bathroom.” Asami told her. “Is everything alright, Korra?” She stepped a bit closer and put a hand on the instructor’s shoulder.

 

“Huh?” Korra looked from the bathroom door to Asami. “Oh, yeah, everything’s great. The party is turning out awesome, don’t you think?” Asami clenched her jaw at the feigned lightness in Korra’s voice but nodded with a smile she hoped was convincing.

 

“We did well!” Asami agreed. Keep smiling, Sato. “But I can’t take credit. It wouldn’t have turned out this way without all your friends, Miss Popular.”

 

The lighthearted jab produced the desired effect. A distracted and slightly taken aback Korra stared at her for a moment before clapping back. “Hey! I’m no Regina George. Believe or not, most of these people actually like me a little.” Her pout was adorable and Asami smiled for real while Opal barked out a laugh somewhere beside her.

 

“Well, color me impressed then.” Asami deadpanned. She slid her hand down from Korra’s shoulder, wrapping her fingers gently around Korra’s wrist, then looked between her and Opal as she led them back towards the kitchen. “Let’s grab another drink? We probably have time for one more before midnight.”

 

“Trying to get me drunk?” Korra wiggled her eyebrows suggestively and, while Asami was glad to feel her in better spirits, she did not appreciate the tease in front of Opal. Asami released Korra’s arm.

 

“I’m the CEO of this party.” Asami said haughtily, shrugging her hair off one shoulder. “It’s my job to get everyone drunk.” Korra and Opal both laughed as they followed her to the kitchen-island-turned-bar.

 

Asami tried to be more subtle in her subsequent observations of Korra and Kuvira’s interactions. At first, she’d mainly noticed Kuvira manifestly draping herself all over Korra and chalked it up to a strong desire for physical contact after a long while apart. Long distance is hard. But with more careful, well-timed glances, she realized Kuvira only touched Korra when Asami or one of her friends was nearby. Every other time, it appeared Kuvira was either plainy disinterested in the surrounding conversation or had her nose buried in her cell phone. Poor Korra. No wonder she’s upset.

 

Asami searched for an opportunity to rescue her friend from the frustrating situation. At ten till midnight, she bit back her hesitation and walked right up to where Korra and Kuvira stood talking to a few instructors Asami had met that night. Well, Korra talked. Kuvira just stood.

 

“Excuse me.” Asami watched Kuvira’s arm wrap instinctively around Korra’s hip as soon as she’d spoken. Predictable, much? She narrowly avoided rolling her eyes. “Korra, it’s almost midnight. Will you help me pass out the champagne? I’m afraid I need your help to remember everyone’s names.”

 

Korra, loyal to a fault, looked to her girlfriend for reassurance. Asami’s teeth ground together in the back of her mouth but she kept her face frozen in its hopeful questioning expression. 

 

Kuvira spoke first. “I’ll help.” She turned smugly to Asami. “Why don’t you relax and enjoy the party? You’ve done so much already. Let me and Korra handle the champagne.”

 

Gah, you prick. “Oh, you don’t need to do that. I’m sure we’ve got it covered.”

 

“I insist.” Kuvira said kindly then landed a ridiculously charming smile on her girlfriend. “What do you say, babe? Let’s give these people what they came for?” Korra smiled back softly and agreed.

 

Ughhh. How could the woman be so goddamned convincing, such an asshole, and also kind of hot at the same time? Asami nodded, defeated, and they followed her to the fridge and began to unload the champagne.

 

“Here.” Korra handed Asami two bottles and smiled warmly at her. “We pretty much got one per person. So, one for you and one for Opal. Or Bolin. Or either. Heh.” Her dorky fumbling smile lifted Asami’s eyebrows together into an endeared stare that probably looked a little more affectionate than it should have. 

 

“Thanks.” She forced herself to look over Korra’s shoulder at Kuvira and keep smiling. “You, too Kuvira. Thank you for your help.” She walked away before she could see whatever expression Kuvira made in response.

 

“So.” Asami reached over Opal’s shoulder and dangled the full bottle of champagne in front of her friend’s face. Bolin eyed the bottle greedily across from her. Too tipsy to hide her irritation and bother denying the truth, she confessed to Opal. “You were right.”

 

Opal squealed and turned around under Asami’s arm. “I knew it!”

 

“It’s not a big deal.” Asami said hushedly, encouraging her friend to keep it down. “But I may or may not think Korra is kind of cute.”

 

“Oh is that right?” Opal raised an eyebrow.

 

“She is cute.” Bolin chimed in, eyes still glued on the champagne bottle. 

 

“Hey!” Opal snapped over her shoulder. She turned back to Asami and muttered sweetly, “Do go on, dear.” 

 

Asami chuckled. “That’s it, O. I think she’s cute.” She glanced over to where Korra and Kuvira were handing bottles to each guest. “And I think I hate her girlfriend.”

 

“Now that’s more like it!” Opal grinned and wrapped Asami into a giddy, bouncy hug.

 

“Why are you so excited?” Asami asked.

 

“Because I have a plan.”

 

“A plan for what?”

 

“To see if she likes you back.” She winked back over at Bolin, who smiled innocently at the two of them and nodded at Opal’s anything-but-innocent comment.

 

**

 

Two bottles and two minutes left until midnight. Korra scanned the room to make sure every guest had champagne and found only one was missing. Bolin.

 

She grabbed one of the bottles and ran over to where he, Opal, and Asami stood. Their conversation died down as she approached and extended the bottle in Bolin’s direction. She was too tipsy to wonder what they’d been discussing. “Here you go, Bo. Don’t want to leave you hanging!”

 

The large man beamed at her and cradled the bottle gratefully with both hands. “I love you, Korra.” He said, meaning every word and staring adoringly at the champagne. They all laughed before Korra nodded a ‘you’re welcome’ and walked away, looking over her shoulder to spare Asami an appreciative glance. She hadn’t quite expected to make eye contact with piercing green as she walked, and she stumbled accidentally into the kitchen island. Once recovered, she turned back for a split second to save face— oh sure, that’s definitely why —and noticed Asami had sucked her full red lips between her teeth, biting back a laugh and smirking softly at Korra’s clumsiness. Her breath caught at the sight. You’re so gorgeous it hurts. 

 

Korra pushed the thought aside and looked in the direction she was walking, back toward Kuvira. She grabbed the last champagne bottle on her way and popped it, taking a few long sips before she reached her girlfriend. 

 

The sparking wine collided with the whiskey in her system, launching her over an edge of inebriation she hadn’t crossed in a while. She giggled to herself as her bottle clinked against Kuvira’s and leaned heavily on her girlfriend. Somewhere, she heard a countdown begin faintly. Oh, it’s time!

 

She turned and focused her attention on the crowd, roaring with them and lifting her arms in the air as they counted back from ten. “Three… Two… One… HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

 

Korra whirled abruptly and crashed her lips against Kuvira’s in a wet, hungry kiss. Her arms slung over her shoulders, one hand holding the bottle and the other buried in Asami’s, no, Kuvira’s thick dark hair. Hands tightened around her hips and pulled her close against a warm body. Finally, finally , it felt like her girlfriend was paying attention to her. Hard to look at your phone now that I’m glued to your face, isn’t it?

 

Korra chuckled at her own joke, smiling against Kuvira’s mouth before reinvigorating her assault by adding her tongue. Fuck, I missed this . For the few seconds they kissed, it struck Korra that this was the only time she’d actually spent with her girlfriend all night. Well, at least you’re here now.

 

She eased up on the kiss and pulled away, smiling at Kuvira’s familiar smirk and tilting her chin up to meet Kuvira’s eyes. She looked up only to find them focused not on her but past her, behind her somewhere. Ugh, nevermind then. Korra sighed resignedly and turned around to find what interested her girlfriend so. 

 

Dread washed over her as she made eye contact with a smiling Asami, looking straight at them and lifting her champagne bottle up in a salute. Crap, did she see us? How long has she been looking? Before Korra could understand why she cared, Kuvira grabbed her hand from behind, the one that held her own bottle, and lifted it up to return the gesture. Korra tore her eyes away from Asami’s as Kuvira nibbled at the skin of Korra’s jaw. “Happy New Year,” her girlfriend whispered.

 

“Happy New Year,” she muttered back distractedly. Why do I feel so awful? Korra stood in Kuvira’s arms, trying to make sense of her feelings while watching Asami turn to embrace and cheer other friends and guests. 

 

Out of nowhere, Opal strode confidently over to Asami, took her face in her hands, and pulled her into a kiss. Korra’s eyes blew wide at the startling interaction. Opal had lifted herself high on her toes and still Asami had bent down to meet her, though the evident shock in her eyes indicated she’d had no idea what was coming. 

 

A friendly peck would have ended by now, right? Opal held on a little longer. Was she moving her lips? Was this real or just some straight girl thing she would never understand? Korra could not look away, fixated on Asami’s reaction. She registered surprise, amusement, then smug confidence as Asami played along and wrapped her arms around Opal’s waist, lifting her up off the ground to finish the kiss with a flair.

 

“Love you too, babe!” Asami laughed out loud as she put Opal down. Her cheeks were slightly flushed and Korra stared open-mouthed at the two laughing friends. What the hell? Is this some sort of joke? Bolin whooped from a corner nearby.

 

Opal grinned at Asami. “Told ya you’d have someone to kiss at midnight.” She winked and Asami laughed happily. “Wasn’t about to leave you hanging.”

 

Bolin walked over and slung an arm over Opal’s shoulders, kissing her temple. Then he turned to Asami. “I can help too, you know.” He waggled his eyebrows in the most exaggerated fashion and Korra chortled from across the room while Asami and Opal cracked up. 

 

Asami hugged him tight and ruffled his hair. “I’m good Bo, I think Opal got me covered.”

 

“Bet your sweet ass I did.” Opal smirked.

 

Seriously what am I missing here?

 

**

 

The rest of the party was comparably uneventful. Not long after midnight, guests began to trickle out, peeling off in newfound pairs and factions of the groups that arrived together. Asami couldn’t stop herself from checking to make sure each and every partygoer was either clearly sober enough to drive or had a cab come pick them up. No use ruining the night with irresponsibility.

 

“‘Sssami!” Korra’s voice slurred from behind her as she picked up a discarded bottle of champagne. She turned to find her instructor with an arm draped heavily over her girlfriend’s shoulder and a sloppy sideways grin plastered on her face. “K says is time for me to go homme now.”

 

“Hm?” Whoever Korra was referring to was correct, Asami thought.

 

“K! You know, K’vira!” Korra explained and grabbed her girlfriend’s face in her hand. She squished Kuvira’s cheeks with her fingers and shook her chin to indicate to Asami who she was talking about. Asami managed to choke back most of her laugh at the unimpressed expression on the woman’s scrunched up face. At this moment, Asami felt the tiniest ounce of sympathy for her. But you know what? No. Kuvira ignored Korra all night and now she was going to have to deal with a whole lot of Korra to put her to bed. Serves you right.

 

“She’s probably right.” Asami teased and Korra pouted.

 

“But m s’pposta help clean upp!” It was a weak argument coming from someone more likely to fall asleep on the couch than be of any use.

 

Asami smiled her best appeasing smile. “Don’t worry about it. Opal, Bolin, and I have it covered. Go home and get some rest.”

 

“Mmkay if you say so.” Korra shrugged. Kuvira shot her a grateful look and Asami nodded subtly back to her. YOU'RE WELCOME.

 

“Mbye ‘Ssami!” Korra stepped away from her girlfriend and shuffled over to Asami, throwing herself into her for a very heavy hug. 

 

“Oof!” Asami let out a puff of air as she caught more of Korra’s weight than she expected. She returned the embrace, patting her lightly on the back to emphasize the sedate friendliness of the hug, mostly for Kuvira’s sake. But not a little for her own, either.

 

“Mmmyou smell nice.” Of course Korra had to ruin all of Asami’s effort by muttering quietly into her hair. Sigh.

 

Asami retreated, pushing Korra away by her shoulders and steadying her for a second before removing her hands. Kuvira was by her side in an instant. Well at least it looks like you’ll take care of her… “Bye Korra.” She turned to Kuvira. “Do you need me to call you two a cab?”

 

“No. I’ll drive us home.”

 

Asami stopped her. “And you’re sure you’re okay to drive right now?” Every guest. She checked every single guest.

 

Kuvira’s expression was unreadable. “Yes, I’m fine.”

 

“Okay.” Asami nodded then smiled. I hope Opal is the only one that can tell the difference between this and a real one... “Thank you for coming. It was wonderful to finally meet you.”

 

Glad for Korra’s state occupying Kuvira’s attention, Asami didn’t feel guilty not shaking the woman’s hand or giving her a hug goodbye. She simply nodded at her and held the door open for them as they left.

 

Finally alone with her friends, Asami strode right up into Opal’s space. “So that was your plan?” She crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow at her best friend. She couldn’t help the little smirk that played on her lips. However ridiculous the ‘plan’ may have been, she’d be lying if she said she actually minded. There were no deeper feelings there; Asami knew. Just Opal being her shameless self. “Or did you just really want to kiss me?” Asami teased.

 

Opal turned to her with a grin. “As sexy as you are, my heart belongs to another.”  She answered dramatically and they both laughed. “But yes, that was the plan! Bo!” She called out to Bolin, who was gathering bottles from the living room.

 

“Elaborate, please.” Asami asked.

 

“While I kissed you, Bo was supposed to watch Korra’s reaction. And see if she got jealous or something.” Opal grinned proudly and Bo nodded enthusiastically as he joined them in the kitchen.

 

“That’s it?” Asami shook her head and chuckled. That’s a drunk plan if I’ve ever heard one. The likelihood of gathering even a sliver of decent data from that experiment was slim. “Alright… what’s the verdict then?” She expected very little out of the answer but the blip of excitement fluttering in her heart was hard to fight.

 

Opal and Asami turned to Bolin expectantly. “Um…” He looked up, eyes scanning the ceiling as he tapped his two index fingers together hesitantly. “I… uh… got a little distracted.”

 

“You WHAT?” Opal cried out incredulously.

 

“I mean you two were MAKING OUT!” He defended. Asami was cracking up in the corner. Should’ve known. “It was hard to look away from that you know! I’m only human!”

 

Opal crossed her arms angrily. “We were NOT ‘making out.’”

 

“But I did get a look at the end! I promise I didn’t miss all of it!” He put his hands up appeasingly. Then he opened his mouth and widened his eyes, a stunned and rather confused expression on his face. “She looked kind of like this.” He said, pointing to himself.

 

Asami snorted and laughed at his impression and Opal scrunched up her eyebrows as she analyzed him. She huffed. “So she was surprised? Confused maybe? That doesn’t tell us anything.”

 

The chuckling engineer put a hand on her friend’s shoulder. “It’s okay Opal, don’t worry about it. I’m pretty sure I made the exact same face. There’s probably not much more information we could have gathered anyway.” Bolin agreed with her eagerly, hoping to avoid his girlfriend’s tipsy irritation.

 

“Fiiine.” Opal sighed and put her hands on her hips. “But Asami you have to promise me that you’ll try to find out for yourself!” 

 

“About that….” Asami glanced sideways at the floor then earnestly at her two friends. “I don’t think that’s a very good idea.”

 

“Why not?!” Opal argued.

 

Asami smiled. “I know you’re only trying to make me happy, but I think it’s for the best that Korra and I stay friends. She’s…” The CEO looked up and sighed. “... she’s been a really good friend to me since I got here. We have a great relationship as it is right now: she’s shown me around the town, kept me company during the harder days, like Christmas, for example, and she’s extremely easy to talk to.” 

 

Her friend scoffed at her, “That’s exactly why you should--”

 

“It’s exactly why I shouldn’t . Because I like things the way they are. I finally feel at home here now that I have a true friend and I don’t feel so alone anymore. Friendships like that aren’t easy to come by. I don’t want to mess it up. If I go meddling in her relationship and hoping for ‘more,’ everything would change. And probably not for the better.” She let out a heavy breath. “I think it would end poorly. And I would most likely end up getting hurt.”

 

“Oh…” Opal breathed. Bolin was looking at Asami with wide glittering eyes and she smiled at him.

 

“So, whatever I feel, I’m going to keep things platonic. I need to protect myself and I need to be respectful of Korra. Okay?” Asami gave Opal a serious look and her friend yielded, nodding her acceptance. Bolin nodded as well, sad but resigned. Whew. Okay then.

 

Now, Asami just had to convince herself it would be as easy as she’d made it sound. 

 

**

 

She chugged from her water bottle, eyeing the twinkle lights floating past the car window. Water is life. Moar water. Tomorrow probably wasn’t going to feel too good. Another liter finished. Just two more to go before Korra would let herself fall asleep. The water had already sobered her up a good deal, but a few more bottles would significantly relieve tomorrow’s burden.

 

Korra leaned against the cool glass of the window, closing her eyes at the refreshing sensation on her forehead. “Where were you all night?” She wondered aloud to her girlfriend. The question slipped out before she’d decided if she really wanted to have this conversation.

 

“I was with you the entire time.” Kuvira said emotionlessly.

 

She opened her eyes against the window and watched the lights pass by before sighing heavily and muttering to herself. “You weren’t really there and you know it.”

 

“What the hell are you talking about?” Kuvira heard. Maybe drunk Korra wasn’t as subtle as she thought. 

 

“You want a list?!” Korra turned on her, suddenly angry at the denial of the obvious disinterest she’d exuded the entire evening. Kuvira said nothing, staring evenly at the road ahead and betraying no reaction besides a twitch in her jaw. Korra felt heat, angry fiery heat, burning her up from the belly outward. “Fine. Half the time I looked over at you, you were buried in your phone. The other half you barely said a word to the people we were talking to, who are my friends , mind you. And on top of all of it, you still felt entitled enough to be all over me, teasing me whenever you felt like it!”

 

“Oh, so you didn’t like having my hands all over you? You shivering against me gave me a very different impression.” The confident smirk on Kuvira’s face was at once infuriating and oddly arousing as Korra remembered lips moving against her neck.

 

“That’s not… it’s not that I didn’t like it, Vee.” Korra said, wrestling with her emotions and the desire that she’d kept cooped in her body for entirely too long. “I just didn’t like the hot and cold, okay? I have no idea where your head was all night, but it definitely wasn’t with me.” She finished her sentence with a mix of sadness, accusation, and frustration, certain she sounded more pathetic than she wanted. 

 

A long silence greeted her in response. And you won’t even talk to me now. You’re just proving my point you know? She stared expectantly at Kuvira for a few seconds before throwing her hands up and abandoning hope for an explanation she might understand. 

 

“She’s not straight, you know.” Kuvira said after a few minutes.

 

“Huh?” The statement caught Korra completely by surprise.

 

“Asami. She’s not straight.”

 

“What are you talking about? That kiss didn’t mean anything; Opal’s her best friend and she’s with Bolin! Also, what does that have to with—”

 

“Not the kiss. That was probably the straightest thing she did all night.” Kuvira smirked with disdain and Korra hated how mocking it sounded. Just as she was about to retort, Kuvira elaborated. “It’s the way she looks at you.”

 

That was unexpected. As was the storm of conflicting feelings that bubbled up in Korra’s chest at the idea of Asami being even remotely interested in her. Delight, guilt, fear, a bit of dread, hope, frustration, excitement, and a healthy dose of confusion. She blinked against all of it, feeling each emotion in turn as they roiled within her. Does she really? Does it matter? Why would it matter?

 

“She’s clearly into you, Korra.” That time pure joy crashed across her stomach before the fear hit her when she registered Kuvira’s tone. “Don’t look so excited.”

 

What?! Crap. Did she even look at me just now? Do I actually look excited? Am I excited? “I’m not… It’s just. Unexpected. We’re friends. I don’t think she… likes me like that. I hadn’t really thought about her that way at all.” Liar.

 

“Why don’t I believe you?” Kuvira didn’t even sound sad or angry. More like she was challenging Korra, urging her to take the proverbial bait.

 

“We’re friends. That’s it.” Korra said definitively. Take your bait and shove it up your ass, Vee.

 

“If you say so.”

 

Oh my fucking god. “I’m serious.” Korra shook her head through the fog of irritation. A moment ago Korra asked the questions and now she was the one defending herself from a baseless accusation. However Kuvira had managed to turn the conversation around, it had worked. Because now, all Korra felt was guilt and a burning desire to convince her girlfriend that she had nothing to worry about regarding Asami. Whether it was true or not. 

 

Korra’s voice turned small and sheepish. Hopeful, even. “Would it bother you? If she liked me?”

 

“Not really.” The way Kuvira answered made it impossible to tell if the confidence came from a place of deep trust or complete indifference, leaving Korra pining even harder for Kuvira’s attention.

 

“Oh.” Korra racked her brain for the right thing to say or do. She barely knew what she felt, let alone what she wanted and what she should communicate. So she settled for the one feeling that had been consistently present all evening long and leaned across the center console to whisper against Kuvira’s ear. “Well either way, when we get home I’m going to show you how little you have to worry about.” 

 

Korra yielded to her base desires she worked her lips across her girlfriend’s earlobe and down the soft skin of her neck. Her hand found its way into Kuvira’s hair and she tugged on it gently, urging her to give more access as her mouth found the sensitive spot on Kuvira’s collarbone and teased it exactly how she liked. Korra’s other hand slid lightly up and down Kuvira’s inner thigh, gripping her through the fabric every once in a while, but never reaching the space between her legs that began to heat up in response to Korra’s touch. She went no further, hovering her hands and lips where they’d been, until Kuvira pulled sloppily into their designated spot and threw the car in park.

 

“Upstairs.” Kuvira growled and Korra smiled to herself as she sank her teeth lightly into her girlfriend’s skin. They sped up the stairs and fumbled with the keys until Korra was pressed up against the front door of her and Jinora’s apartment, glad her roommate had finally decided to spend nights at her boyfriend’s house. 

 

Kuvira was rough with her that night and Korra welcomed it. She needed it, she wanted to feel her, wanted to drown out her guilt about Asami and wanted Kuvira to show her that she did, indeed, care. She moaned loudly at every thrust inside and screamed Kuvira’s name without reservations as she came. She gave herself entirely, bent over the counter, on her knees, and sprawled on her bed. Kuvira took her time after time and in turn Korra threw herself into reciprocating pleasure with all she had, relishing in the restrained groans and grunts Kuvira let slip as she fisted her hands in Korra’s hair. 


In the end she lay awake, spent, more sated than she’d been in weeks, but staring at the ceiling trying to understand what still felt so wrong .

Chapter Text

Korra scrolled through the messages on her phone, revisiting each and every time she’d blown Asami off.

 

Fri, Jan 1st

Asami [11:21am]

Happy New Year! Bolin, Opal, and I are looking for a good brunch. You and Kuvira want to join us? Any recommendations?

 

Korra [11:32am]

Happy New Year

 

Korra [11:32am]

I like The Friendly Toast. We probably can’t make it, but have fun

 

Asami [11:33am]

Thanks, we’ll try it out! Sad you can’t join us =(

 

Sat, Jan 2nd

Asami [3:33pm]

At risk of sounding like someone who only eats brunch… Bo & Opal are leaving tomorrow afternoon and we’re doing a goodbye brunch around 10am. If you two aren’t busy, you should come!

 

Korra [4:58pm]

Ah sorry, we’ll be on our way to the airport by then. 

 

Korra cringed at the lie as she passed it.

 

Wed, Jan 6th

Asami [4:02pm]

Missed you in class today. Hope you’re not too sick. Ginger was a pretty good sub!

 

Asami [4:26pm]

Let me know if you need anything; I’m good for soup delivery. Feel better!

 

Sat, Jan 9th

Asami [6:13pm]

Feeling better enough to come out with Kai & Jinora tonight?

 

Wed, Jan 13th

Asami [7:43pm]

You okay? Had class with Ginger again today

 

Nothing else since then. It seemed Asami had gotten the hint and stopped trying. It made Korra sadder than she could’ve imagined. 

 

She remembered staring at last Wednesday’s message for hours, agonizing over how to respond. Truth was, she couldn’t bring herself to brush off Kuvira’s observation on New Year’s Eve. Especially considering how much space Asami occupied in Korra’s mind since that night. Out of sheer uncertainty, she’d called in sick for their first lesson post New Year’s. Then, once her doubts piled on and she’d avoided Asami for a full week, the idea of seeing her again frightened her too much. So she ran. 

 

Cowering away, she thought long and hard about the implications of Asami potentially having interest in her, and decided reluctantly it was probably best to step back. She could not lead her friend on. And she should discourage any situation that might put her and Kuvira’s relationship in jeopardy.

 

Unfortunately, there was no decent manner of explaining all this to Asami and after much deliberation she left the text unanswered. To Korra’s disappointment, no response was message enough and Asami gave up on reaching out. She’d told herself it was what she wanted: separation, space. 

 

Except Korra’s initial instinct to shy away from that precarious edge on Kuvira’s behalf proved futile. The distance did nothing to cool her thoughts. If anything, she now spent more time wondering about Asami, plagued by the near-certainty that her actions (or lack thereof) had upset her. And, if the woman felt anything like Korra did these days, hurt was probably the best way to describe it. Korra felt absolutely wretched for causing pain and, to top it all off, she missed Asami and the effortless affinity that had fallen into place between them. The continued drought of care from Kuvira only added salt to the wound.

 

It took her this long, but she had made peace with her desire to stay friends. She’d even conceded that wanting such an affectionate friendship was okay. She’d begun to take extra care to mentally unravel the intricacies of toeing the line between friendship and too much closeness, cataloguing hypothetical situations and interactions by their level of non-platonic potential. 

 

But now Kuvira canceled their evening chat, again. Korra was exhausted from alternating between feeling like a jerk whenever she ignored Asami and feeling like hot garbage whenever Kuvira didn’t make time for her. Screw this, she thought as her fingers hovered over her screen. I should at least be able to hang with someone that makes me happy. She sighed heavily as she typed up a message.

 

Tues, Jan 19th

Korra [2:23pm]

Hey, I’m okay. I’ll see you tomorrow =)

 

**

 

Her heart seized up when she saw Korra’s name flash on her lock screen. She forced herself to keep a straight face for the video stream to her boardroom. An agonizing thirty-seven minutes later, plus small talk, Asami wrapped up her meeting and took a heavy breath as she picked up her phone. 

 

That’s it?! ‘I’m okay?’ How simple. How infuriating. She’d barely heard from the woman in two and a half weeks. Considering they’d only known each other since late November, that amounted to a sizable percentage of their friendship spent wondering why she was being given the cold shoulder. Asami cringed as she scrolled backwards through their messages since New Years. Mostly her messages. Wow, it reads pretty desperate, doesn’t it?

 

Despite how she’d promised herself and Opal that she’d keep things strictly friendly, the total lack of Korra since the party made it impossible to stop thinking about her. At first, she’d worried about Korra’s cold; hell, she’d even researched the best soup places in the city and considered surprising her with some kindness before realizing she didn’t even know where Korra lived. After the second missed ski lesson and a handful of unanswered texts, the evidence suggested avoidance and Asami pulled back.

 

She shook her head at her other messages. It was admittedly rude for Korra to not answer and bail on their ski lessons. The school never gave much explanation for it, either. But beyond the lack of basic courtesy, Asami couldn’t produce a logical reason to be mad. They were friends, yes. They’d gotten rather close, also yes. They’d shared a few heavier moments and built a strong understanding between them, definitely. But they hadn’t been friends for that long. This unresponsiveness could be classic Korra, for all Asami knew. 

 

Except deep down she knew it wasn’t. Something was wrong. Everything she did know about Korra, and everything she felt about her personality indicated something was amiss. She sighed at the simple text on her screen. Guess I’ll have to see tomorrow.

 

**

 

I can’t believe I’m going to mess this up again. Korra huffed and puffed as she skate skied briskly to flag number 12, significantly slowed by the weight of the whimpering child in her arms.

 

The kid, maybe three or four years old, had called to her on her way back from the break she’d spent taking a few runs to clear her head of apprehension about seeing Asami. The young boy had seen her uniform and shuffled over to her, tears welling in his big brown eyes as he cried to her in a language she couldn’t understand. Spanish, maybe?

 

Instinctively, she’d extended her arms and he stepped right into them, letting her pick him up. They could not communicate very well over the language barrier, so she’d pointed at the ski school and he’d sniffled a nod.

 

And now here she was, skiing up to Asami to explain how, despite disappearing without explanation for nearly three weeks, she was going to have to delay their lesson.

 

“Asami!” She called out as she approached. Korra balked at the coldness Asami turned on her before her expression melted into softness at the sight of the boy in her arms. Gee, thanks kid.

 

She closed the distance between them a second later. “Hey.” Korra greeted while catching her breath. “I’m sorry for doing this, but I need to start late today. I think this little guy is lost.”

 

The CEO’s eyebrows drew together in sympathy as she gave the boy a kind smile. “Aw, poor thing.”

 

Korra patted his arm with her free hand. “Yeah, he came up to me on my way back; I think he recognized the uniform. I need to get him inside the school to someone who speaks Spanish and can get his parents’ names. Once he’s settled in and they’ve called the parents on the PA system, I can come back and we can start. I’m so sorry about thi—”

 

Asami interrupted her by leaning forward, definitely too close to Korra’s face for comfort, and extending a hand towards the boy. “ Hola chiquito, ¿cómo te llamas?

 

Korra blinked in disbelief at the flawless Spanish flowing casually from Asami’s lips. She gaped and Asami quickly flashed her a secret smirk before turning to the boy as he answered shyly. “ M-Manuel.

 

She did not understand exactly what was said next, but Asami took a step closer and it sounded like she introduced herself. “ ¡Qué bonito nombre, Manuel! Me llamo Asami. ” The boy smiled at Asami, and Korra couldn’t help but do the same. 

 

Asami looked from Manuel to her and pointed in her direction. “ Y nuestra instructora se llama Korra. ” 

 

Holy shit. Nothing could have prepared Korra for how sexy her own name sounded in Spanish. Especially coming out of that mouth.  

 

The engineer turned to her. “What do you need to know to help?”

 

“Um.” Remember how to do your job Korra. Truly, the intense attractiveness of Asami smoothly transitioning into another language had left Korra rather unprepared to speak English. “Er, yeah, we need his parents' names basically. To call them over the PA. Also if he knows where they are or their phone numbers or anything really.”

 

The CEO nodded and turned back to Manuel. Korra decided that, despite understanding nothing, she could happily listen to Asami talk for the rest of the day. “ Manuel, ¿sabes dónde están tus papás? ” The boy shook his head no and sniffled, burying his face against Korra’s jacket. Asami’s eyebrows scrunched up again and her eyes filled with kindness. “ No te preocupes, guapo. ” She put a reassuring hand on his little arm. “ Vamos a ayudar. ” Her sweet smile disarmed the boy and Korra both, and left them looking at her expectantly.

 

¿Cómo se llaman tus papás, Manuel? ” 

 

C-Carlos y y… Enrique. ” His sheepish voice answered. Asami looked to Korra at once to check she’d caught the names. Korra nodded and urged her to continue. 

 

¿Puedes decirme qué pasó? ” Korra observed Asami as she listened to the boy. She watched her eyes glisten with sympathy, marveled at her lips forming reassuring smiles and encouraging words, and smiled at her understanding nods as Manuel elaborated on likely the most stressful experience of his young little life.

 

She was almost sad when the exchange ended and Asami turned to her to explain. “He doesn’t know where his parents are. I told him not to worry, that we can help. Hopefully that’ll calm him down a bit.” Asami said, then flashed Manuel another sweet smile. You are one lucky kid. Korra’s eyes widened at the thought and she turned to him apologetically, wincing at the absurdity of calling a child who had just been separated from his parents ‘lucky.’

 

“I asked him what happened and he said he went to the bathroom and when he came out they were gone. Poor baby, he’s pretty shaken up.” Asami smoothed a gentle hand over his hair. “I doubt they left him on purpose; he probably walked off without them knowing.” 

 

“Got it. Thank you so so much Asami.” Korra was beyond grateful. Both for the help and for the privilege of witnessing all of the last few minutes. Between Asami’s tenderness with the little boy and her fluency in Spanish saving the day, Korra felt… quite taken. No no no. Okay, awed, then. Yep, she felt awed. “Can you tell him that I’m going to take him inside the school where they’re going to call his parents? He can wait there for them to pick him up.”

 

Asami dipped her chin and turned to explain to Manuel. The boy nodded against Korra up until the very end, when he asked shakily. “ ¿Te vas, Asami?

 

Korra, confused, watched Asami melt and respond softly. “ Yo me quedo aquí guapo… mientras esperas a tus papás en la escuela de esquí. ¿Qué te parece?

 

He did not seem to like what she just said because he buried his face against Korra and shook his head no. His little voice came out from within Korra’s jacket sounding like a question. “ ¿Puedes quedarte conmigo? No quiero que te vayas.

 

Whatever he said must have been indescribably cute because Asami looked like she’d just been handed a squirming, loving puppy. “What is it?” Korra asked.

 

“When I told him I’d stay here and he would go wait for his parents at the school, he asked if I could stay with him… He said he didn’t want me to go.” Asami turned to Korra, eyebrows turned up and jade eyes begging for permission. “Is that allowed? Can I hang back there with him?”

 

“Oh my god yes.” Korra blurted. “I mean. I think it would make things a lot easier on him if you’re okay staying. He seems to like you. We’re not so strict that we won’t do what’s better for the kids.”

 

Asami smiled broadly and turned to Manuel to deliver the news. “ Vamos entonces, me quedo contigo hasta que lleguen tus papás.

 

The little boy beamed and leaned out of Korra’s hold, extending himself towards Asami. Neither of them quite expected his weight shift and he teetered dangerously before Asami stepped close to catch him. He eagerly wrapped his arms around her neck and Korra released him when she felt Asami’s arm slide against her jacket to take his weight. Something about the moment fluttered warmth across her heart. She popped off her skis and walked the three of them towards the school, carrying her and Asami’s gear.

 

Once they stepped inside, Asami finagled herself out of her helmet one-handed. Korra took it from her without hesitation, eager to aid in any way she could. Though Asami needed no help at all, from the looks of it. She had the boy smiling and giggling with her in minutes, her own smile bright as day as she tipped her chin up to laugh at something he said. Korra’s chest hurt as she tore herself away from the heartwarming sight to inform the reception of the situation.

 

After ironing out the details at the desk, she came back over to Asami and Manuel, grinning broadly at the sight of him playing idly with Asami’s hair. Korra had never felt jealous of a child before. Guess there’s a first time for everything.  

 

“Hey you two.” Asami’s joyful smile as she turned to Korra with the toddler in arms stole the air from her lungs. “Um.” Korra coughed to catch her breath and let the intensity of her reaction subside. These were exactly the kinds of feelings she should be avoiding. “I’ve given them the names. They will call Ski Patrol and make sure that his parents get contacted - either via the PA system or by the phone numbers connected to their lift tickets, if they’re on file. There’s a waiting room in the back with some toys and stuff; we can hang in there until they get here.”

 

As they walked quietly to the waiting room, Korra glanced sideways at Asami and Manuel. She supported the boy’s weight with one arm and rested her other hand protectively over his back, patting him soothingly. He had tucked his head up under her chin and balled his tiny hands into loose fists that rested softly against Asami’s chest. The CEO looked utterly consumed with making sure he was comfortable. Every few seconds she would tilt her head to the side to check on him and make sure he wasn’t crying. He heaved an unwieldy breath and a yawn as Asami’s hand began to rub small circles on his back and Korra realized he’d fallen asleep in Asami’s arms. Oh my god .

 

Korra was absolutely enchanted as she watched Asami settle smoothly into a chair and arrange herself gingerly to avoid waking the boy. Her elegance and grace never faltered as she sat and repositioned him so he lay sideways against her, his weight supported by her lap now instead of her arm. It freed the hand that she now raked through her hair, untucking a few strands from the collar of her jacket and brushing them back from around her face. I could’ve helped with that. Korra’s eyes widened at the thought that snuck up on her and she fought to forget the idea of running her fingers through Asami’s hair as she sat down across from the engineer.

 

“I wonder if he’s hungry.” Korra said. 

 

Asami blinked at her as if she’d just realized someone else was in the room. “Yeah… probably will be when he wakes up.” She whispered. It was the cutest thing how she quieted to not disturb him. “He’s so stressed. This is a lot for a little one. I’m glad he was able to relax enough to rest.”

 

“Pretty sure you had a lot to do with that.” Korra beamed, lowering her own voice. She continued swiftly, hoping to disguise the tenderness that had seeped into her tone. “We have some snacks somewhere. I’ll grab him an apple later.” 

 

Asami nodded silently and it suddenly dawned on Korra that the two of them were effectively alone for the first time since New Year’s. With nothing to do but sit in a room together for an indeterminate amount of time. Um. Korra had been hoping to simply get back into the swing of ski lessons without dwelling on her lack of responsiveness or discussing anything other than skiing. Having an activity would have made conversation a thousand times easier. 

 

“I didn’t know you spoke Spanish.” She offered pathetically. She’d meant to sound as impressed as she felt but somehow it came out remorseful and shy.

 

Asami looked up at her, clearly a little thrown by her tone. “I, uh, my family… my father and I lived in Spain for a while when I was younger.”

 

As if that were normal as hell. Korra, too intrigued to care about treading lightly, widened her eyes and mouthed a ‘wow,’ eliciting a blunt chuckle-scoff from the engineer. “Where in Spain? For how long? How old were you?” She asked eagerly, keeping her voice hushed.

 

Asami smiled softly at Korra’s unconcealed excitement. “Madrid. About eight years. Moved there in elementary school and left in high school.”

 

This woman just kept getting more and more interesting. Why had Korra thought distance was a good idea again? All she could think about now was how much she wanted to know her. Everything about her. “Did you love it?” Korra pried.

 

Asami laughed quietly and nodded. “I think I was too young to appreciate half of what I was exposed to. But yes, I did. It’s an incredible place. And looking back on it now, whenever I go back to visit, it’s… that much richer of an experience. It feels like it is still a part of me even though it was so long ago.”

 

How could she so matter-of-factly say things that resonated so deeply? Every word drew Korra in further, made her want to see the entire world from Asami’s eyes. Take me with you next time.  

 

Okay, so maybe that’s why she had decided to pull away from Asami. Because thoughts like that popped into her head without warning when they talked. Or skied. Or looked at each other. Or laughed. Or… anything, really. The ideas sprung up so naturally, they always left Korra shocked and unsettled by the suppressed urges at which they hinted. If Korra’s brain kept pulling tricks like that and Kuvira was right that Asami was interested, it could be… a recipe for mistakes. 

 

But she could keep that under wraps. Kuvira was probably wrong anyway. (Not that Kuvira even seemed to care. Or check in.) She and Asami were friends and that made sense. Korra would be a fool to give up a friendship—a really good friendship—with Asami Sato just because the woman was admittedly very enticing in every sense of the word. It’s okay to be friends with someone attractive. And it’s okay to want to take trips with them to cool exotic places that they love. Korra would just have to make sure that the not-so-platonic ideas bubbling up in her brain remained fancifully fantastical and never left her mouth. Simple as that.

 

“That sounds beautiful. It would be amazing to see that with you.” Korra whispered reverently. No you idiot, not like that. 

 

Asami’s expression betrayed only a hint of bemusement as she smirked and winked . “See you there.” GAHHH! Korra’s eyes went wide again. Maybe not quite so simple. That was a joke, right? 

 

Korra cleared her throat awkwardly, trying not to wake the sleeping child while buying herself time to find another path for the conversation. “So, uh,” she coughed lightly, “did you move around a lot as a kid?”

 

“Depends on what you consider a lot.” Asami answered quietly, leaning down to check on Manuel as the boy shifted against her. “Some of the kids I met in school moved to a new place every two or three years; military families. It wasn’t that much for me.”

 

“How much was it?”

 

“A few times… to Spain and back to the US. We spent a year in China when I was very young. I don’t remember it much. I did get to spend a few summers in different places, which was always interesting, especially when I got older.” Korra nodded along, encouraging Asami to continue, thirsty for anything she would give. “Everywhere we went was because of my father’s work. So it was usually somewhere near a Future Industries plant or a design center. My favorite times were the summers; those usually coincided with product launches and manufacturing plants. Once I got older, my father would let me join him on the plant floor every once in a while and those were by far the best days.” She smiled to herself at what could only be a warm memory and Korra smiled happily on her behalf. 

 

“What was your favorite place you visited?” She asked after a minute.

 

“Spain. Definitely.”

 

“Why?”

 

The engineer hummed in thought, the sound melodic and sweet. “For so many reasons… but most likely because we had time to truly live it. We built a life there, engaged in the culture, immersed ourselves in everything around us. And it’s such an incredible country.” Asami laughed lightly. “In eight years we saw a fraction of what there is to experience there. I could spend a lifetime discovering and rediscovering Spain and I don’t think I’d ever get bored.” 

 

See you there.  

 

Damnit, there it was again. I’d better get this under control if

 

“What about you?” Asami asked innocently.

 

“What about me?”

 

“Have you… moved around a lot? Traveled?” She hesitated, pursed her lips briefly, then added to her question. “I figured maybe being a part of an Olympic team you might have…” Oh. Asami trailed off, suddenly looking rather apologetic. 

 

Korra must have grimaced something fierce to render Asami so remorseful before even finishing her sentence. Korra tried to steady her expression. “I, uh, didn’t get to travel much besides the Games themselves.” She clarified in the direction of her knees. “Maybe if I…” her throat tightened and she began hearing those sounds again, snow scraping, bones crunching, distant screaming that she found out later was her own. 

 

She screwed her eyes shut. It’s okay, Korra. Breathe. You’re safe. In and out. Her coach’s words floated into her mind, repeating themselves like a mantra until she had control of her lungs again and let out a laden breath. A few more and she would be fine.

 

“Hey…” Asami’s soothing voice sliced through her panic, sweet as honey and thick with understanding. Korra opened her eyes to find Asami leaned slightly forward, as far as she could with a sleeping child in her lap, a hand extended towards Korra but frozen in the air with nowhere to go. Asami’s hand fell back around Manuel when they made eye contact. “We don’t have to talk about it. I’m sorry for bringing it up like that.”

 

“No, it’s okay.” Korra said quietly. I want to tell you. So much. As much as she wanted to know about Asami, she ached to share with her as well. Something about the woman made Korra want to open up like a book. Hide nothing. Show her everything. Except you can’t, you doofus. Okay, well maybe not everything . But most things. Definitely this thing.

 

She took another deep breath but just as she was about to speak, Manuel stirred. They both looked down to check if he was waking up, instantly aware that if he didn’t remember his present situation, the ensuing panic would probably be tenfold what Korra had seen earlier. Immediately, Asami laid a calming hand on his back and began moving it side to side as she spoke softly to him in Spanish, guiding him gently into wakefulness.

 

Korra watched in awe. She listened intently and stared . Asami was captivating. The musicality of her voice framing syllables Korra could not understand, the tenderness in her eyes as she cooed softly to the boy, the way hair tumbled over her shoulder when she leaned her face closer to Manuel… everything. She looked at once otherworldly and like she was in precisely the right place at the right time. Korra swallowed the swell of sharp admiration that tugged at her heart as she looked on, entranced.

 

It sounded like she was introducing them to him again? Probably a good idea. Korra heard Asami’s name and her breath caught when she heard her own in that wonderful Castilian lilt. Sheesh that is unbelievably sexy. Asami pointed to Korra, who waved to Manuel with a goofy smile as he turned to eye her sleepily.

 

After a few moments of him cuddling against Asami, achingly adorable, and blinking himself awake, Asami asked him a question, still sort of pointing at Korra. “ ¿Qué tal si le ayudamos a aprender un poco de Español, hm?

 

Manuel giggled and nodded, then looked expectantly at Korra. “What? What’d you say to him??” She sat up sharply, only panicking a little.

 

“Manuel has kindly agreed to help you learn a little Spanish, Korra.” The contagious mischievous grin on Asami’s face combined with the large eager eyes of the young boy on her lap were entirely too much to resist. Why the hell not?

 

“Okay. Let’s do it.” Korra grinned back at them.

 

They sat on the floor of the waiting room for at least an hour, ski boots discarded to one side, as Korra tried, with extreme difficulty, to get her tongue to cooperate with Spanish. Sounds were hard. And Asami was a stickler for pronunciation. Manuel seemed to enjoy it every time Korra spoke with an accent and laughed at her unabashedly through Asami’s patient corrections. 

 

Korra found her calling once she discovered she could make the boy laugh harder if she purposefully misspoke and made Asami frown. Each time she screwed up she earned a deeper, more endearing scowl from the engineer and a louder, more high pitched squeal of amusement from Manuel. He fell apart into a fit of giggles as Korra intentionally mispronounced the word for ‘bathroom’ and Korra considered herself victorious when Asami’s pout barely hid the upward curl at the corner of her lips. 

 

Korra was grinning like a buffoon when a man’s voice called from behind her. “ ¿Manu?

 

¡Papi! ” The boy shrieked happily and ran as fast as his little feet would carry him, straight into his father’s knees. Korra shared a warm smile with Asami before the two of them stood and walked over to the reunited family. The two dads held each other tightly with their son wedged between them, laughter bubbling out of their hug sandwich. Korra was not about to cry. No way. Asami sniffled once beside her and she almost lost it, but no. Korra was the professional in this situation. A representative of Whistler mountain. Keep it together woman.

 

“Thank you so much for finding him.” One of the men said in accented English, as the family separated from their tangled embrace. The other held Manuel and smiled lovingly at him, with no eyes for anyone else in the room.

 

“Of course.” Korra said with a smile. “He was very responsible. He found me to ask for help. It was very good of him to find someone in a uniform he recognized.” She put a hand on Asami’s shoulder, urging her forward. “And Asami here did the rest. She spoke with him and called him down while we waited for you. She was wonderful with him.”

 

The parents looked at Asami with so much gratitude Korra could practically feel it in her heart as she swelled with pride. 

 

Muchísimas gracias, Asami. ” The dad turned his eyes to the engineer and pulled her into a hug. Korra chuckled as Asami’s eyes widened at the unexpected gesture and then settled as she calmly returned the embrace.

 

Fue un placer. ” She said as she pulled back. Korra had not learned those words. “ Manuel es un amor. Amor , Korra knew the word for love. She didn’t react at all at the way it rolled off Asami’s lips. Nope, not one bit.

 

She knew the word for thank you, too, as Manuel turned to the two of them and squeaked it out in his sweet little voice. Asami leaned over to Korra and muttered something in her ear. It took an extra second to register the words as Korra recovered from the proximity. “ Gracias a tí, Manuel. ” Korra managed to eke out, thanking him for his very helpful Spanish lessons in a pretty decent accent, if she said so herself. Asami’s proud grin seemed to agree.

 

Mucho gusto, guapo. ” Asami smiled softly at the boy and gently pinched his cheek. Somehow the action came off elegant and graceful and Manuel didn’t seem to mind. How does a person manage to do that and not look like a grandma? He leaned towards Asami, balanced precariously in his dad’s arms, to give her a kiss on the cheek. It was the kind of sweetness that could only come from a child and Asami visibly melted as her smile widened. 

 

Eres muy bonita, Asami. ” Manuel said shyly and blushed into his dad’s coat. What does that mean? All she understood was Asami’s name. Korra looked around in confusion as the two parents chuckled heartily and Asami reddened, laughing lightly as well. What?

 

They said their goodbyes and, as the reunited family walked away, Korra had to ask. “What was that last thing he said?” 

 

“Something silly.” Asami dismissed, but she blushed again and cast her eyes sideways at the floor. 

 

“I want to know. Please?” Korra tried on her own version of puppy dog eyes. She got an amused snort from Asami and considered it not a total loss.

 

“He said… ‘you’re very pretty Asami.’” The flush in the engineer’s cheeks deepened as she repeated the compliment. 

 

Korra’s brain responded immediately. He’s absolutely right . That, she probably shouldn’t say out loud. Instead, she stood regarding the engineer with a shit-eating grin that screamed her agreement without a single word.

 

**

 

Korra was giving her the derpiest smile she’d ever seen on a human being. Her honest blue eyes glittered with amusement and everything about her face said ‘I agree’ or something equally kneecapping about her whole-hearted endorsement of the innocent boy’s admiration. 

 

Asami’s complexion betrayed her again as she felt her cheeks grow hotter. She looked away, literally in any direction, for something to focus on or turn the conversation towards. Ski boots! “Think we have time for a few runs before my ‘lesson’ is over?” She said, gesturing to their boots strewn about on the floor.

 

Korra’s face fell. “Oh no. I’m so sorry. I actually completely forgot about the lesson.” She pulled out her phone, checking to confirm that indeed, more than three quarters of their four-hour lesson had been consumed sitting in the back of the ski school. “You should really get a refund for that. I’ll go talk to the desk.” She moved to walk away.

 

“No! Don’t worry about it.” Asami grabbed her arm, then dropped it immediately as Korra visibly tensed. “It’s, uh, it’s okay. I got a package deal on the classes anyway; not sure if there’s any way to refund a single one. It’s really no big deal. I enjoyed hanging with Manuel actually.” She offered a warm smile, hoping Korra would accept the olive branch. The last thing Asami wanted was to make Korra uncomfortable in any way, afraid she would retreat again.

 

A sneaking smile tugged at the corners of Korra’s lips. “He was such a sweet kid. And a very good Spanish teacher.”

 

Asami released a breath of relief, disguising it with the laugh that always came effortlessly when Korra joked with her. “Utterly adorable.” She agreed. “And you weren’t so bad yourself, you're a fast learner.” 

 

“It helps when the teacher is cute.” Korra said with an easy smile. As soon as the words were out, both women widened their eyes in horror at the inadvertently flirtatious moment. She probably meant Manuel, right? Asami couldn’t tell if the fear in those blue eyes came from having her words misinterpreted or from having said something she shouldn’t have.

 

Korra made an awkward sound and her hand found an itch on the back of her head. Asami rushed to her aid, equally eager to push the nigh inappropriate interaction back into the realm of impossibility where it belonged. “He was definitely cute.”

 

The breathed laugh from Korra betrayed relief and a hint of gratitude for the exit Asami had provided. For the next few beats, Asami watched Korra wrestle with her thoughts. The woman wore her heart on her sleeve more than anyone she’d ever met and Asami found it captivating to see so much. It only made her want to see more. Maybe find out what Korra looked like when— nope. The engineer blinked hard, cut off the improper train of thought, and waited patiently for Korra to figure what she wanted to say. It only took another moment.

 

“How about I buy you a beer to thank you for your help today and I make the lesson up to you another time? We can ski together on my day off!” She grinned, evidently pleased with her solution.

 

“Oh no Korra, you don’t have to do that.” Asami deflected, avoiding the question Korra had actually asked. “I don’t want you to waste four hours teaching me on your day off.”

 

Korra looked almost hurt. “Waste?”

 

“Well yeah; you probably don’t want to do your job on your day off. God knows I wouldn’t.”

 

“It wouldn’t be a waste. I love sp—skiing.” Asami figured it was probably safer not to wonder what Korra had almost said as the instructor took a long pause before continuing. “But if I’m being honest… as much as I wouldn’t mind ‘working’ on my day off, I really don’t want to do my job right now.

 

Asami gasped, feigning indignance. “Oh my, Korra! Are you saying you want to play hookie?”

 

The wicked grin that greeted Asami was answer enough. “So... beer?” The grin offered.

 

“I’m in, but you can’t buy it for me.” … because then this would feel too much like a date.

 

Korra scowled back at her. “But that’s the whole point! You deserve at least one, you were awesome today with Manuel.”

 

“You’re acting like it was some sort of huge sacrifice.” Asami chuckled. “I meant it when I said I had fun. It was no big deal.” Korra’s determined expression did not waver, and Asami realized she would have to yield a little ground to get anywhere. “How about you buy me a beer the next time I do something awesome?”

 

Korra guffawed and crossed her arms. “And how do you know you’re going to do something awesome anytime soon?” She challenged, eyes narrowed.

 

“It’s pretty simple. I’m awesome. So I’m bound to do something awesome at any given moment.” She teased flippantly, throwing her hair over her shoulder.

 

“Whatever you say.” Korra reluctantly nodded her acceptance of the terms but leveled that lopsided smile on Asami again that practically shouted, ‘I agree.’ Asami turned away to put on her ski boots before Korra’s look could make her blush again.

 

**

 

Bad decision, bad decision, bad decision. What was she doing asking Asami out like that? 

 

Wait, hang on. I did not ask her out.  

 

What else is it called when you offer to buy someone a drink, one on one? 

 

I’ve bought my friends drinks before!

 

What was it then? Korra wondered to herself how she might explain this to someone, anyone who asked. Would she have done anything like this with, say, Jinora? Yes. Without thinking twice. She’d have taken Jinora out for a beer or twelve and paid for all of it just to see her roommate shitface wasted. 

 

Okay then, see? This is fine. Something in the back of her mind nagged her about this being different , but she ignored it. Asami had even insisted that they each pay for their own drinks. Even less risk of a date. We’re fine.

 

Korra did not feel a flutter in her stomach when she held the door open for Asami to enter the bar. Nooope . She was just showing a friend one of her favorite pubs in the area. And they were going to hang out like normal friends do.

 

Except Asami called her out mercilessly the moment they sat down with their drinks. “It sounded like you had a monster cold the last few weeks. Feel like you’re fully recovered yet?” Oh you’re ruthless . Korra watched Asami’s eyes brighten curiously as she took an overly innocent sip of her beer.

 

“Um.” Korra cleared her throat. “Yeah, much better, thanks.” The lie made her beer taste stale and Asami just raised an eyebrow. Korra sighed and lowered her eyes to the heavily mutilated wooden table, nervously tracing the grooves made by countless customers and whatever sharp objects they had on hand. She frowned, uneasy under the steady gaze she knew Asami kept on her.

 

Korra could not explain why she felt so disgusted with herself. Even though they’d had a perfectly pleasant few hours, Korra still couldn’t shake the cloying discomfort of the last two and a half weeks hovering oppressively over their afternoon. She had a clear opportunity here to brush past it, blame it all on a nasty flu, and resume her friendship with Asami without missing a beat. 

 

Except that felt impossible . What with the way Asami was looking at her: providing her an easy excuse while her damned green-as-emerald eyes held Korra in place, demanding more, hoping for the truth they suspected lay hidden beneath the surface. She had decided not to push Asami away, but here she was doing it, lying to her. As Korra withered under that gaze, she warmed to the idea of telling Asami the full story. Probably not a good plan to go into too much detail about that. But she could at least give her something, right?

 

Korra took too long. Asami gave up. Again. A shadow of disappointment flicked across that perfect, honest green and she looked down into her drink as she took another sip. When she looked back up, Korra’s veins turned to ice. She saw it instantly, the wall going up, a distance growing. A distance Korra desperately needed to close, right now , before it got too late and whatever easy honesty had flown between them until now would be gone.

 

“I, uh…” Korra cleared her throat for what felt like the millionth time. “Asami.” Eyes on hers again, paused. Maybe something in Korra’s tone had stopped the retreat. Korra smiled weakly; she’d take whatever ground she could at this point. “I should apologize to you.”

 

Eyebrows raised. The green a little surprised, but still unyielding. “Are you?” Asami asked.

 

“What?”

 

“Apologizing.”

 

“Oh.” Korra looked down at the now fascinating initials carved into the wood. “Um, yes. I am. I’m sorry.” She apologized to the table then shook her head at her own infuriating clumsiness and raised her eyes until she found green ones. “I’m sorry,” she said more confidently this time.

 

Asami nodded softly, but she kept watching Korra, waiting patiently for more. ‘Tell me why,’ those eyes pleaded, and Korra did her best to comply. 

 

She couldn’t very well say ‘my girlfriend thinks you like me and I’m confused about how that makes me feel, so I ran away from you so she wouldn’t get jealous but she really doesn’t seem to give two shits about what I do and I really think you’re pretty great and would like to keep spending time with you if you don’t hate me already.’ 

 

“I’m sorry for… disappearing on you.” Korra found a word. It was a decent word. Seemed to fit alright.

 

Asami’s expression softened and she quirked her head to one side before asking worriedly. “What happened?”

 

The concern was plain on each of her wonderfully sculpted features and Korra felt the care emanating from the woman in her soul. Still didn’t mean she could, or should, tell her everything. She would still be honest though. “I… was… I, um, I wasn’t actually sick.” Korra lowered her eyes in shame, too cowardly to witness whatever disappointment she’d put in those eyes. “I’m really sorry. I just… needed to figure some stuff out.” Korra hoped with every cell in her body, that that summary of the truth would be enough.

 

“Hm.” Asami nodded pensively. “And did you?”

 

“What? Figure it out?”

 

“Mhm.”

 

“Um…” Korra looked up into that wonderfully shimmery green, closer than it’d been less than a minute ago, and felt certain she’d made the right choice to keep Asami in her life. “I’m getting there.” She smiled, full and genuine, and saw the smile reflected back at her in Asami’s eyes.

Chapter Text

Sun, Feb 14th

Korra [13:04]

Is it too early to start drinking?

 

Asami clicked open her cell phone and chuckled at the message. Her thumb hovered over the screen, hesitating to send the lighthearted ‘Never’ she’d typed without thinking. Something’s off. She paused to consider.

 

Today was Valentine’s Day. Korra had loosely mentioned plans with Kuvira, the particulars of which Asami had happily chosen to forget. Normally, Korra sent playful messages like this one to their constantly abuzz group chat with Kai and Jinora, not directly to Asami. They had also developed a routine over the last few weeks: the two of them would go for a drink after their Wednesday lesson and over the weekend Korra, Jinora, and sometimes Kai would assemble at Asami’s house for a movie night. This particular invitation, if indeed that’s what it was, qualified as out of the ordinary.

 

All in all, the facts indicated something different if not altogether wrong. Asami deleted her one-word answer and tried again, something that could be taken lightly if desired but left room for elaboration, if that was in fact what Korra needed.

 

Asami [13:04]

I require more information to properly address your inquiry

 

Korra [13:05]

Lol

 

Korra [13:05]

Let me put it this way: I am drinking. You gonna judge me or join me?

 

So, an invitation. Which meant… Korra had asked Asami to hang out, likely one-on-one, on Valentine’s day, outside of their regular cadence, despite having mentioned plans with her girlfriend. Something’s wrong. Protective, supportive instincts kicked in and this time Asami sent a different one-word answer.

 

Asami [13:06]

Where?

 

**

 

“Hey.” Asami’s greeting already betrayed warm concern, before she’d even seen Korra’s face. The kindness tugged at Korra’s heart as she looked up from her drink to smile weakly at her friend. Asami stopped when Korra’s eyes found hers and her eyebrows drew together, green eyes clearly displeased at seeing Korra so out of sorts. She huffed out an irritated breath as she sat down next to Korra at the bar. “What did she do?”

 

“W-what?” The precision of the question took Korra aback. “How’d you--”

 

“Korra. It’s Valentine’s Day. Instead of preparing the dinner you were so excited about, you’re at a bar and you’ve invited your only single friend to join you.” Asami said it so matter-of-factly that it almost didn’t sound pathetic. Except it might look a bit… Oh. Does she think this is a booty call? Korra would never. Asami was worth so much more than that.

 

“T-that’s not why I called you… I don’t want you to think—”

 

“Stop worrying.” Asami waved off the panic in Korra’s voice, as if she could swipe it away with her hand. “I’m happy to be here.” She put a comforting hand on Korra’s shoulder and leaned forward to catch Korra’s averted gaze. “Do you want to tell me what happened?”

 

Korra sighed heavily, mourning the absence of Asami's hand as soon as it left her shoulder to rest on the bar. As she considered how much, what, and if to share, Asami offered another tempting option. “Alternatively, we can sit here and talk about nothing at all.”

 

Korra couldn’t help the little puff of laughter that escaped and she softened involuntarily at the warm smile on Asami’s lips. She sighed again, “Nothing actually happened.

 

“Bullshit.” Asami retorted and Korra snorted, always amused when Asami forwent her usual eloquence in favor of choice bluntness.

 

“It’s really nothing... Kuvira…” Something in Korra twinged when mentioning Kuvira’s name to Asami. While she ached to share and confide in someone about how troubled she’d been for months about her relationship, her brain kept screaming at her to hold back. “She called this morning to confirm our plans.”

 

“That bitch.” Asami delivered the line in such refined deadpan, Korra burst out laughing.

 

Asami smiled and took the opportunity to order herself a rye, neat, while Korra giggled. Between chuckles she watched Asami take an appreciative sip of her drink and swirl it once before setting it on the bar and turning to her again. Her green eyes sparkled with a smile as she sat by Korra, a perfect picture of openness and understanding, waiting patiently for her to continue. Or not; whatever Korra wanted. 

 

It hit her then just how much she wanted to bare her soul to Asami, without reservations, concerns, or what-ifs. Asami seemed to be the only person around her that cared about Korra and what she wanted. And if she respected Korra enough to stand by her even if she didn’t want to open up, then the woman was an angel. She sighed again. Just talk. It won’t hurt you. With a rush of an exhale, her brain surrendered to her yearning for comfort. As she began, she wondered if letting Asami in would make her feel more or less pitiful than she already did. 

 

“It wasn’t today, really.” Korra scrunched up her eyebrows. “Well… it wasn’t just today. When she called this morning I was really happy.” She laughed bitterly. “We were supposed to make dinner together over video and then eat and just hang out… it’s not even that I like or even care about Valentine’s Day. It’s a stupid holiday, honestly.”

 

Asami exhaled sharply and nodded her agreement without a word, allowing Korra to continue at her own pace.

 

“But fuck, I was so excited about today. It was going to be the first time in, I dunno, a while that we were going to actually spend some time together. I swear we haven’t talked for more than five minutes straight since she was here for New Year’s. Can you believe that?” She turned to find Asami with raised eyebrows and pursed lips.

 

Korra sighed. “I was excited—on Valentine’s Day mind you—because I finally had an excuse to make her spend time with me. How pathetic does that sound?” She shook her head and looked down miserably. “Kuvira’s been so busy lately and she just… hasn’t made time for us. Every time I ask her to talk or video chat or… other stuff… she just says she can’t. And whenever we do talk she’s so… absent.” Korra glared at the bar, letting her consternation wash over her, and only heard Asami’s huff of frustration.

 

“Sorry. I’m rambling.” She turned to Asami to explain herself. “I-I don’t really talk about this sort of thing.” Korra scoffed. “Hell, Kuvira would probably kill me if she knew I was talking to you about me and her.” An awkward pause suggested Korra amend her statement. “I mean, you or anyone really. Jinora doesn’t hear about any of this either.”

 

“You’re fine, Korra. You can talk in circles all you want.” Asami teased just enough to tug her out of her downward spiral and Korra chuckled.

 

“Ok, well stop me if you get confused.” She gave Asami a sideways grin before continuing. “Kuvira and I usually keep relationship stuff between us, so this is… new for me.”

 

“I promise I’ll be nice.” Asami joked and Korra smiled, again. Man, how is she so good at that?

 

With another big breath, Korra resumed her story. “Anyway, I’ve been feeling like this for a while. Like she’s just not there, you know? Even… before New Year’s actually.” She looked up guiltily at Asami then, for reasons she could not fathom. “It just seems like I’m the only one trying.

 

“So, add all this up and you can imagine how much pressure I put on this silly dinner.” Korra shook her head at herself. “When she called this morning, she started going on and on about all the stuff she had to do today and how she was soooo busy and how she might be late and all these excuses.” Korra gestured aimlessly with her hands. “I snapped.”

 

“Mmmhmm.” Asami’s knowing affirmation somehow completely validated Korra's reaction and she sat up a little straighter.

 

“I just… dumped everything on her. Told her how frustrated I was at how distant she’d been and how I’d been hoping that today would be different and…” Korra raked a frustrated hand through her hair and huffed a bitter breath. “And you know what she said?”

 

The corner of one of Asami’s eyebrows quirked up, asking wordlessly: ‘What?’  

 

“She said that if I thought the time she has isn’t good enough for me, then maybe I should try with nothing at all.”

 

Asami’s eyes blew wide open and she stared at Korra in disbelief. “My reaction exactly.” Korra said, nodding to Asami’s face.

 

“D-did you two…?” Even Asami couldn’t bring herself to say it. Korra hadn’t either. At least not until she knew it wasn’t happening.

 

“Break up?” Korra finished for her and Asami nodded briskly, a mix of worry and shock evident in her expression. “No, we didn’t break up. I don’t know what I would’ve done if she’d tried to end a five year relationship over the phone.”

 

Asami released a breath of relief that didn’t quite make it to her eyes. Korra wondered at it for a split second before deciding not to dwell. “When I finally had the courage to ask her what she meant, she said that if I was going to be so ‘all or nothing’ about this stupid dinner, then I would probably be happier with nothing and we should cancel our plans.”

 

“Oh.” 

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Wow.” Asami let out a long breath.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“So you lied.” The CEO said after a quiet moment.

 

“What?!” Korra turned on her, blindsided by the accusation.

 

Asami smirked. “You said ‘nothing actually happened,’ but that’s not true.”

 

“Oh. You asshole. You had me going.” Korra laughed at herself and Asami grinned. “Looks like I did. Old habit, I guess.” Was it though? Did Korra actually make excuses for Kuvira that often? 

 

“Mhm don’t I know it.” Asami said, nodding.

 

“You? Whaddya mean?”

 

The CEO sighed heavily. “An ex-boyfriend of mine cheated on me in college.” Korra blinked hard at the outright insanity of what she’d just heard. Who in their right mind would cheat on this woman?!

 

Before Asami could say another word Korra puffed out a dismissive breath and muttered. “Well he’s clearly the world’s biggest idiot.”

 

Asami smiled and her eyes softened, burning a hole straight through Korra’s chest as she continued. “He hid it for a while. Back then I just couldn’t understand why all of a sudden we were fighting so often. After the blow-out arguments, I’d find myself unable to grasp exactly why I had been angry or even what we’d fought about. So I’d tell myself and my friends that nothing had really happened; that it was just a small fight. I was lying; to myself and to them. It was a way of minimizing what I felt so it wouldn’t have to be real.”

 

Korra grimaced. That sounded a little too close to home. Asami’s hand found her shoulder again, warm and soothing.

 

“I’m not saying Kuvira’s cheating on you Korra. Because she would be a fool.” Korra’s eyes flashed astonishment at Asami, who just continued to smile at her kindly. “All I’m saying is that what you feel is valid, even if you have a hard time expressing it. Don’t diminish your concerns or shove them aside. I promise it only makes things worse. Long distance is hard enough without suppressing your emotions.”

 

Korra heaved out a sigh. “What do I do then? I mean, she won’t even talk to me about it.”

 

“Do you want to be with her?”

 

It was a simple enough question. Korra decided this wasn’t the moment to address the increasingly familiar waver in her conviction about her answer. “I-I mean sure. We’ve been together for five years. She… she saw me through some of the toughest years of my life, and—”

 

Asami sighed and shook her head, interrupting. “You don’t have to answer me, Korra. Just make sure to answer for yourself. Understand what you want. If you feel ambitious, try to understand why you want it. Then do everything you can to keep it or obtain it. That means that if you want to be with her, you need to make your feelings clear. And you need to be open to what she might be feeling in turn. Then you two can work it out together.”

 

“But what does it matter that my feelings are valid if she doesn’t seem to care?!” Korra grumbled in frustration.

 

The CEO closed her eyes and tilted her head to one side, almost as if conceding. “She probably does care, Korra.” Asami sighed sadly. “You don’t spend five years in a relationship and not care. I think maybe, if this has been on your mind for a while, she might’ve felt a little ambushed, while you already felt strongly about it. That’s not usually a recipe for a productive discussion.”

 

“So basically you’re saying ‘count to ten and try again?’” Korra asked incredulously.

 

Asami’s bright laugh caught her by surprise. “I guess that sums it up rather nicely.” She shrugged. “Things will turn out for the best; you just have to be honest with yourself and with her. If you aren’t, things will get nowhere fast.”

 

“Thanks ‘Sami.” Korra mumbled into her beer with a heaving sigh. Despite her apocalyptic outlook on the inevitable discussions with her girlfriend, Korra felt significantly lighter. Releasing that coiling tension from her chest had left her breathing easier. And she had Asami to thank. For some reason, it didn’t surprise Korra to realize that no one else could have drawn her worries out into the open so effortlessly. Asami was an angel. 

 

‘Sami?’ ” The engineer’s voice dripped with amusement and Korra’s eyes went wide as she realized she’d just given her friend a pet name. Right after said friend had willingly listened to her whine about her relationship woes. Korra winced, mortified.

 

“I, uh—sorry.” Korra shrugged as innocently as she could, failing to hide her embarrassment. “I kinda just do that with names sometimes…”

 

The CEO chuckled. “‘Sami.’” Her eyebrows danced as she let the name roll off her tongue before looking at Korra decisively. “I’ll allow it.” 

 

Her foolish smile drew out one of Korra’s, which only grew wider as she stared appreciatively at her friend. You’re amazing. Thank you.

 

**

 

Asami was beginning to dread Korra’s lopsided grin and the way her heart thudded when it landed on her. It was genuinely unhelpful in times like these when she already had to fight every nerve in her body aching to tug Korra close and hold her until she felt better. Even more unhelpful was that adorable nickname and the openness of Korra’s blue eyes as she stared gratefully into Asami’s.

 

Disengage, Sato. The CEO looked down at her nearly finished whiskey. She tipped her glass up to empty it, then searched for the bartender to order a refill. She damn well needed one, that was for sure. She’d barely held it together as Korra described her recent difficulties with Kuvira. In all honesty, she could hardly remember her own words of advice. All the energy not consumed by talking had been focused on keeping her indignance from boiling over. 

 

Irritation burned in the pit of her stomach at the sight of Korra so dejected but wanting and trying to find a solution only to be stonewalled by Kuvira’s abject inadequacy at being a decent human. Everything about her friend’s demeanor screamed ‘what am I doing wrong?’ and all Asami wanted to do was shake her furiously and tell her she was perfect.

 

Asami knew the dangers of the illusion of perfection, but Korra… well she came as close as anyone Asami had ever met. She cared so honestly and loved so openly. Her naturally magnetic energy was only enhanced by her warm candor and easy smile. Not to mention those eyes, so goddamn blue they made the sky look dim. So much for suppressing your crush. Whatever. As long as she kept it friendly on the surface, her emotions could simmer internally and they would burn no one but her.

 

“So this boyfriend.” Korra said suddenly.

 

“What about him?” 

 

“Is he still alive? Because if he is, I’d be happy to fix that.” The bravado in Korra’s tone stirred laughter straight from the depths of Asami’s chest.

 

Asami answered between breaths. “He is, yes. But you needn’t worry. I broke his heart right back.” The comment came out a little more bitter than the lighthearted quip she’d imagined, and Korra perked up with interest.

 

“Oo, revenge story! Do tell!” She leaned eagerly towards Asami, eyebrows wiggling.

 

“It’s… not so poetic as that.” Asami lowered her eyes at the unwelcome memories.

 

“Oh…” Korra dipped her chin to catch Asami’s gaze. Asami glanced in the direction of the blue eyes searching for hers. “I’m sorry I asked. We don’t have to talk about it.”

 

“It’s okay. I feel like it’s a fair trade, relationship talk for relationship history, no?” She tried to smile, but it felt just the least bit hollow.

 

“Only if you want to, ‘Sami, really.” Gosh Korra, stop calling me that. It really did a number on her, to hear Korra say her name so sweetly. The subtle intimacy of a silly little nickname pushed and pulled on Asami’s feelings more than she wanted to admit.

 

“I… do, actually.” Asami was surprised to find it was true. Not least because of the way Korra looked at her. She sighed. “We dated senior year of college and he cheated on me for a few weeks before we broke it off.”

 

“Biggest idiot in the world.” Korra affirmed, like it was just so simple.

 

“It was… complicated. We had the same friends and spent time in the same circles. He acted despicably, no doubt about it, but we had been friends for years beforehand, so losing him after we ended it was doubly difficult.”

 

“Geez… I can imagine.” Korra’s eyebrows drew together with sympathy and Asami found pouting, concerned Korra a hell of a lot cuter than she could have ever expected.

 

“After a lot of time and some very challenging conversations, we managed to patch up our friendship.”

 

“Well that’s mighty big of you. I don’t think I could be such an adult.” 

 

Asami scoffed. “It wasn’t easy. But we kind of had to. Mako was always going to be a part of my life and being in such an uneasy place with him made it challenging to contin—”

 

“Wait, Mako, like Bolin’s brother Mako?!” Korra sat up in her seat, eyes wide.

 

“The very same.” Asami nodded.

 

“He cheated? ” Another nod. “On you?” Asami raised an eyebrow. “While your best friend was dating his brother?” Yep. “His brother, who is a good friend of yours?” Korra could barely contain her incredulity. “WHAT A MORON.” She threw her hands up in the air in such exasperation that Asami couldn’t help but laugh.

 

“It’s true.” Asami chuckled. “He’ll be the first to admit it, too. Followed closely by myself, Bolin, and Opal.”

 

“So how’d you break his heart?” Korra asked, almost too eager.

 

This was the hard part. “After my father died, I leaned on Mako a lot. We’d rebuilt our friendship and he was there for me during some of the toughest moments. Even through grief, I looked forward to spending time with him. I think I grew to depend on his company to fight away the loneliness without my family…” Asami swallowed and Korra’s hand landed on her knee out of nowhere, calm and encouraging. 

 

Asami glanced up, gratefully staring into impossibly kind blue eyes. “I mistook that reliance for love.” Korra’s eyes widened slightly at the word and Asami tried to quell any response to the reaction. “So, after a relationship with him crashed and burned once, something broken in me decided it would be a good idea to try again.”

 

“Yikes.” 

 

“Indeed.” Asami shook her head. “We dated for the better part of a year before I had enough presence of mind to realize I didn’t reciprocate his feelings.”

 

“Ouch.”

 

“He didn’t cheat, nor did I. There weren’t any dramatic yelling matches or anything. I just… told him I didn’t love him and he left.” Asami said quietly, looking blankly at her drink. “I felt horrible. I know what he did to me was awful, but we had genuinely gotten past it and become good  friends again. In the spirit of that friendship, he offered me kindness and compassion when I was in a really dark place and I just sort of… used him and tossed him out when I was finished.”

 

“You’re not being fair to yourself.” Korra squeezed Asami’s knee reassuringly.

 

“No? I think that’s a pretty accurate summary of what happened.” Asami recognized the bitterness in her own voice all too well.

 

“It sounds to me like Mako’s not entirely blameless… In a way, he took advantage of you when you were vulnerable. You were at least honest with him when you figured it out. That counts for something.” 

 

Asami exhaled forcefully. “It feels to me like I did the taking advantage.”

 

“Asami, you said it yourself, you were in a really dark place. It makes it impossible to see beyond your immediate surroundings. You latch on to any comfort that comes your way for as long as it helps and when it stops helping, you flounder and you have to let go. Believe me, I know what that feels like.”

 

She looked up at Korra. “... Do you mean… ?” Asami wanted to ask, badly, about Korra’s experience at the Olympics. But considering how her friend had disappeared into herself the last time, she was afraid of launching her into another spiral after an already trying day.

 

Korra caught her implication and answered much more confidently than Asami expected. “The accident. Yes.” She withdrew her hand to her own lap. 

 

Asami blinked at her, watching carefully for any signs of retreat like before. After a few seconds of Korra standing firm, Asami swallowed nervously and ventured her question. “Can I ask what happened?”

 

“Of course.” Korra’s mouth smiled but her eyes steeled. Asami could see, plain and clear, the unmistakable effort Korra put into controlling her voice and her breath as she talked. “It’s not a long story really. I was competing in Slopestyle and Halfpipe. During the Halfpipe finals I missed a landing and… got badly injured. It knocked me off the podium for that year and… out of skiing for a long time.”

 

Asami felt the biting anguish buried in the forced steadiness of Korra’s voice. It wasn’t fresh or angry, but resigned, as if that pain had become a part of her soul. Had she almost medaled? Stricken, Asami reached instinctively for the hand across from her. She couldn’t help the choking tension in her chest at the thought of Korra hurt. 

 

Korra met her gaze and Asami watched the defensive shell in those emotive blue eyes fall away slowly. It yielded to sorrow and regret and insecurity, vulnerably bare for her to see. Asami squeezed Korra’s hand, if only to stop herself from reaching up and touching her cheek. She wanted to ask for more, to encourage Korra to open up once again, but she didn’t push. If Korra wanted to, she would come.

 

She did. “The fall, it…” Asami watched the tension build in Korra’s jaw then release as she continued. “It damaged my spine. I… couldn’t walk for… almost a year.”

 

Asami’s eyes widened and she swallowed thickly, remembering at the last second not to break Korra’s hand with her grip. Korra looked down at their hands and chuckled softly. “I’m okay now, though.” She smiled reassuringly and the warm gaze did more to soothe Asami’s inner panic than anything Korra could have said.

 

A jumble of thoughts whirled through Asami’s head; she wanted to know so much. And she could tell, by the way Korra looked at her, so calm and so open, that if she asked, Korra would give. The suddenness and intensity of that trust hit Asami square in the chest, constricting and swelling her heart in a confounding surge of emotion. She refused to betray it by asking too much. “I’m glad you’re okay… I don’t think I would have been able to handle any other instructor for an entire season.” The trivial joke lightened the air and Korra grinned back at her.

 

Korra chuckled as she responded. “I’m glad too. Though I don’t know if I’ll ever be at 100% again, I’m glad to be where I am.” She cast her eyes down and Asami’s hand squeezed hers again, almost involuntary.

 

“Geez Korra.” Asami said with playful exasperation. “Are you saying that what I’ve seen so far this season isn’t even you at 100%?!” She didn’t need to exaggerate her awe for the raw athleticism and talent her instructor exuded. “Damn.” Korra blushed and laughed as Asami fanned herself theatrically to cool her not-so-pretend attraction.

 

With the mood lifted, Asami indulged in a follow up. “Do you want to be at 100% again?”

 

“I… don’t know.” Korra released a heavy breath. “That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out for the last several years. Who do I want to be? I focused so intently on training, competing, and winning for so much of my life that when it was stripped away I felt… lost.

 

“Instructing helped. More than I expected it to, actually. I got into it at first because Tenzin suggested I try it once I’d recovered my mobility. I had been too afraid to get out on the snow and somehow he knew that teaching kids would help me get past it.” She smiled and shook her head. “He was totally right. Teaching brought skiing back to me and I’m so grateful for that.”

 

Asami sensed the ‘but’ before Korra even said it.

 

“But I’ve been in love with freestyle for… as long as I can remember. Ever since I landed my first little jump as a kid, I’ve been addicted. It’s… exhilarating. There’s nothing like it. And some days I just miss it. I miss the drive, the push, the pain… I miss flying.” Korra’s eyebrows scrunched together and her eyes glossed over, and Asami could feel her remembering. 

 

“Have you tried again since?” Asami asked delicately. The skin contact, while borderline too intimate, grounded them both. Asami didn’t mind at all.

 

“No.” Korra shook her head once, forcefully. When her gaze returned to Asami’s, shame and remorse evident in her eyes, Asami noticed that deep within the turmoil Korra seemed to be pleading for acceptance, understanding. “I’m… still scared.” 

 

Asami bit back the emotion that threatened to escape her. Korra had nearly whispered the admission, so ashamed of her trauma that she feared disdain from others at her apparent weakness. Oh, Korra.

 

“It’s okay to be scared.” Asami said quietly. 

 

Korra scoffed, incredulous, frustrated. “I shouldn’t be. I have no reason to be.” She made eye contact with Asami, almost apologetic, and pulled her hand away. Asami found herself reaching after it without thinking but shrunk back quickly as soon as she heard the name on Korra’s lips. “Kuvira’s told me so many times to push through it; that I’ll be fine. But I just feel… paralyzed, you know?”

 

Kuvira, you are a disgrace to girlfriends the world over. Asami nodded sympathetically and clenched her warm but now empty hand into a fist under the bar.

 

“I should just listen to her.” Korra continued sorrowfully. “She was one of the trainers for the Canadian team. After the accident she helped me through my recovery and stood by me as I literally got back on my feet. She stayed despite how lost I felt and stuck around while I searched for ways to motivate myself and find meaning. She saw me before, saw me through it, and sees me now. She knows I can do it and I know I should probably just trust her but for some reason I… always shut down when I think about jumping again.”

 

Asami tensed and grit her teeth, galled by the appalling lack of consideration Kuvira showed. How could she call herself supportive while pressuring Korra to return to a sport she barely felt comfortable thinking about? Asami let her conviction resonate in her voice. “It’s okay to still be dealing with the mental effects of trauma, Korra. You may be physically better, but something like that doesn’t just affect your body. Fear, apprehension, flashbacks… all of that can freeze up your mind no matter how ready you may be physically. And that’s okay. Healing is a holistic process and it takes time.

 

“But I’ve had time. That’s the frustrating thing. It’s been so long. Maybe even too long. It has gotten somewhat better, but the panic still comes back and it’s all I can do to keep it down. Even years later. I just... I feel like such a failure when I can’t try again. Like I’m letting everyone down.”

 

“Korra. You are not a failure. It doesn’t matter what everyone else wants or expects from you. Not Kuvira, not anyone. It's your life, your body, your mental health. The only thing that matters is what you want for yourself, whether that’s competition or teaching or something different entirely.” Asami paused and leveled serious, unrelenting eyes on her friend. “Don’t let anyone push you into training or competing until you feel ready. Only try again if you want to, for yourself and no one else.”

 

Korra looked stunned. She blinked at Asami, clearly taken aback by the intensity and protectiveness betrayed by her little speech. But then the piercing blue softened and Korra’s face melted into a heartfelt, grateful smile that set Asami’s heart ablaze. “Thank you for saying that.”

 

Without missing a beat, Asami responded, honest and direct. “I think you needed to hear it.”

 

Korra glanced down at her drink pensively. “I think I did, too.” She muttered at length and Asami watched fondly as a small lopsided smile tugged upwards at the corners of her lips.

 

**

 

Korra thought hard for a few minutes, watching the carbonation bubble up through her beer as Asami sat quietly next to her, smiling and supportive, demanding nothing. The simple honesty, the way Asami encouraged her without expectations or conditions... it felt safe. Like Korra could let herself want things, and even if she didn’t have all the answers, uncertainty was okay. Welcome, even. Like she could just be herself. The peace and relief shook her to her core and spread through to the tips of fingers. The familiarity of the feeling tickled the back of her mind and she remembered that the last time she’d felt so free was the last time she flew. 

 

Korra grinned wide and looked at her. “Do you know what I really want?”

 

Asami raised her eyebrows at Korra’s unexpected enthusiasm. She smiled and the feeling of flying nearly blew Korra over as it swelled in her chest. “What?”

 

“I want to teach in New Zealand.”

 

“New Zealand?”

 

“Yeah. For the last few years, when ski season ended, I went back to Toronto and spent the spring and summer with the trapeze school. It’s fun, but I’ve always wanted to ski year-round. My dream was New Zealand. Still is. It’s supposed to be stunning and the skiing to die for.”

 

“Okay hang on. I want to hear more about New Zealand, I really do. But trapeze?” Asami’s eyes were wide with interest and the edges of her mouth held on to a smile.

 

Korra barked out a quick laugh. “Yep. Flying trapeze.” She wiggled her eyebrows and Asami’s eyes only opened wider.

 

“No.” The laughter was all but spilling out of those lovely green eyes and Korra enjoyed it immensely.

 

“Oh yes.” She grinned. “We did a trapeze class once as a team bonding activity before the Games and I got hooked. It’s basically everything I like: flying through the air and flipping around. Except you get to do it with other people. Super fun.”

 

“Okay… an Olympic skier that joined the circus? Who are you?” Asami’s laugh finally bubbled out of her and Korra smiled like a fool.

 

Me?” Korra shrugged playfully. “Certainly not the youngest female CEO in automotive history who speaks multiple languages and designs engines for fun.” She landed a pointed, teasing look on Asami and the CEO blushed lightly between chuckles. Nice. She could not get enough of drawing that reaction.

 

“But I didn’t actually join the circus.” Korra felt she had to explain. “I just help out with the trapeze classes. A few basic tricks, catches, nothing fancy. It’s fun to introduce people to it. It also means I can fly whenever I want and that is amazing.”

 

“A bit of a thrill-seeker, are we?” Asami asked with a smile.

 

“Gotta get my fix.” Korra joked, lifting her drink in mock salute before taking a sip and watching Asami follow suit.

 

“So, New Zealand.” Asami said after a brief, easy silence. “You know they have an excellent rugby team?” Her eyebrows quirked upward enticingly and Korra found herself grinning.

 

“Oh? I had no idea. Probably because I spend most of my time fantasizing about mountains and snow. Despite your little show with Bolin, I'm pretty sure rugby is not a winter sport, is it?” 

 

Asami barked out a laugh. “I won’t lie and say I’ve never played snow rugby before.” Oh god I’d love to see that. “But no. Not technically a winter sport. It’s a fall season so… September through November normally.”

 

“That’s spring down there… might actually overlap with the end of ski season.” Korra lifted an eager eyebrow and Asami smiled.

 

“Are you going to go?”

 

“To New Zealand?” Asami nodded and Korra sighed. “I told myself I would. But I’ve been… putting it off, for one reason or another. My most recent excuse is that I want to get my Level 3 ski instructor’s certification so I can get better pay.” She shook her head. 

 

That was one of many reasons she’d used to deny herself the adventure she’d dreamed of. The first one had been ‘when you land your first big air after recovery.’ After paralyzing fear stopped her from achieving that target one too many times, she’d moved the goalposts. ‘Get your Level 2 certification and then you can go.’ That milestone came and went and here she still was, fantasizing about powder stashes on Mount Olympus and itching to teach kids with adorable accents. Maybe in the end she was just too concerned about extending her and Kuvira’s long distance for an entire year.

 

“What does it take to get your Level 3 certification?”

 

“It’s… not easy. Some Level 2’s train for years before they can get it. It’s refining and honing  already well developed skills in yourself and other skiers. Basically a step below being able to train other instructors.” Korra scoffed at herself. “There’s a certification exam near the end of March. I’ve been working on the material but I just don’t feel like I quite have it yet.” She let out a frustrated sigh. “Clearly I’m setting myself up to never get to New Zealand.”

 

“I know this probably sounds pretty hollow coming from someone who’s never taught a single person how to ski, but I’m confident you can do it. You’re an incredible teacher; I’ve learned so much from you already and somehow you still find ways for me to improve. And you’ve obviously got skiing skills to spare, since I doubt ‘Olympic athlete’ is a prerequisite for any level of ski instruction.”

 

Korra laughed and shook her head. “No, not a prerequisite. The skiing portion is the easy part, believe it or not. It’s the technical expertise that’s harder for me. You have to pick up on so many intricacies and how they relate to the CSIA standards… it takes a lot of study, a lot of observation, and tons of hours on the snow to pass the exam.”

 

“You mean you have to study really hard and ski a lot?” Asami’s irreverent over-simplification, much the same as Korra’s before, drew an appreciative chuckle from the instructor.

 

“Yeah, pretty much.” She laughed.

 

The engineer regarded Korra for a moment before her eyes drifted to the ceiling, considering. “Hm…”

 

“What?”

 

“Well. All I do is essentially work, study and ski.” 

 

“Yeah…?” Korra pinched her eyebrows together, wondering where Asami’s thoughts we’re headed.

 

“My final semester of business school started, and I have to do all the schoolwork after regular work. So I study all evening. And ski whenever I get a break.”

 

“Okay. And?”

 

Asami looked back at Korra with a clever smile that instantly made her want to agree to whatever came next. “Why don’t you study with me after work? We can hold each other accountable on the academic side of things and then you get your on-snow hours during lessons. And I’m happy to ski with you outside of lessons if you need more practice. I sure could use it.”

 

Talk about epic. And considerate. And kind. And all around wonderful. It didn’t escape her notice that if she agreed, she and Asami would be spending a lot of time together. The thought lit her up and plastered a childish smile across Korra’s face. Asami was excellent company. Not to mention the only person Korra felt like she could fully confide in. They’d grown so much closer over the last several weeks; it felt indescribably natural to engage with her more. Why not?

 

“That’s an awesome idea!” Korra beamed. The way Asami returned her smile only made her more excited, setting her heart to dancing in her chest. Don’t get too carried away, Korra

 

The warning registered without much import. She’d been handed an opportunity to throw herself into preparation with invigorated motivation. If Asami provided that just by being nearby, then Korra would not pull away just to avoid the possibility of getting too close. Nope. She felt a renewed drive to chase something she wanted and she refused to give up this newly minted conviction. If it meant Kuvira got a little jealous because Korra was spending time with a friend who genuinely cared about her, so be it. 

 

Asami chuckled to herself. “Oh wow, this reminds me of college. Study groups after class.” She shook her head as she smiled. “This is going to be fun.”

 

Korra, delighted by the enthusiasm mirrored in those bright green eyes, could not agree more.

Chapter Text

I really shouldn’t be this nervous. Her anxiety turned a completely platonic activity into the perspiration-inducing, gut-wrenching marathon of emotional suppression Asami worried it would become. Don’t be dramatic, you’re only studying.

 

Asami took a deep breath. Only studying. She could not remember the last time she’d been consumed with so much apprehensive excitement about another person. She glanced at her phone, 16:05. Korra would arrive any minute, knocking on her back door with that heart-stopping smile of hers.

 

They’d made their plans two days prior, at the bar. On Valentine’s Day. When Asami, after two whiskies, had decided it would be genius to offer to spend more time with Korra than she already was. On work days, Korra was to clock out at the ski school then ski down to Asami’s house. They’d study through dinner—Asami her management materials and Korra her L3 certification resources—then go their separate ways. Rinse, and repeat. Except for lesson days, when Asami would meet Korra at the base for their regular Wednesday schedule, which still had them spending all afternoon together.

 

It had all seemed like a grand idea at the time, while they sat at a bar laughing, joking, and opening up to each other more easily than Asami ever had with anyone else. The thrill of Korra’s undivided attention, her vulnerability and trust, and that whimsical smile clouded Asami’s judgment. 

 

Right up until the moment when, just before parting ways, Korra threw herself into Asami’s arms in a hug so full of fondness and genuine affection that Asami had to hold her breath against the intense longing that gripped her heart. Turned out she’d been right about hugging Korra: not a great idea if it elicited so much. She’d had to remember to release the embrace after it lasted a tad too long and watched in near despair as Korra strode away with a dopey grin and a happy wave. Knowing she’d been the one to put that smile on Korra’s face only added fuel to the fire.

 

Well, no way but forward Sato. You got yourself into this, now deal with it.

 

She felt rather childish, nervously setting out snacks and water for her and the study-buddy that was about to arrive at her back door. She laughed at her own foolish concern about making a good impression. The woman had been to her house dozens of times before. Though the last time they’d been alone was at Christmas and that had been… intense. It’s going to be fine. Get over yourself.  

 

The knock came a second later and Asami steadied her breath as she opened the sliding glass door for Korra’s charming smile and cold-reddened cheeks. Her apprehension melted away into a warm glow of familiarity as Korra stepped inside with a chipper hello and began to work off her ski boots. Without hesitation or awkwardness, the instructor saw Asami’s computer and books on the dining table and padded over to unload her own laptop in front of a seat nearby. See? She’s comfortable. I have no reason not to be.

 

Tension appeased by Korra’s confidence, Asami offered some basic refreshment and they got to work without fuss. Asami tried not to smile at Korra’s furrowed brow and pout of concentration, but didn’t fight the delightful distraction too hard until Korra caught her staring. 

 

“What?” The instructor said, pulling her headphones out of her ears. 

 

Oops. “Uh, nothing…” Asami answered awkwardly. She smiled to play it off. “You’re muttering to yourself.” It wasn’t a lie, thankfully. 

 

Asami felt instantly guilty for causing the wide-eyed embarrassment that spread on Korra’s face. “Oh. I’m sorry. Is it really distracting?” The instructor asked, blushing.

 

No, it’s adorable. “No, not at all.” Keep that smile to yourself. “It’s kind of cute, actually.” Her mouth betrayed her and she cringed at herself immediately. 

 

Korra, to her credit, dismissed the flirtation with a trite laugh. If only she hadn’t turned a deeper shade of red and smiled bashfully before fumbling to put her headphones back in. If only Asami hadn’t adored that reaction and wanted to see it a thousand more times. If only.

 

Goddamnit. Asami sighed angrily at her own lack of control. Just focus.

 

With impending awkwardness acting as chaperone, Asami managed to keep her eyes on her own work. Only a few times was her attention drawn to Korra, who watched her screen intently and twisted her hands to mimic skis as she murmured to herself. Besides the few momentary distractions, Asami flew through her case studies for the evening. She’d always been more productive when surrounded by another person’s concentration.

 

Her stomach began to complain around seven. When she heard Korra’s own growl of hunger, she made eye contact with her companion, who glanced back at her self-consciously. “Dinner?” Asami offered, chuckling.

 

“I think maybe… yeah.” Korra said shyly, looking down at her stomach and then back up at Asami with a sheepish smile.

 

“No problem. I have some chicken marinating already. I can have it ready in a half hour or so.” The CEO stood up, closing her laptop and stacking her notes. 

 

“Wait, you’re going to cook?” Korra said, rather panicked. 

 

“Yeah.” Asami turned back, quirking an eyebrow at her unease.

 

“Dang, well let me help you!” The instructor glanced rapidly at her screen, eyes darting across the various files she had open in a rushed attempt to organize herself as she closed up.

 

“Relax, Korra.” Asami laughed gently. “I’m not that bad a cook. I can probably handle this by myself.”

 

Even more embarrassed, Korra’s eyes went wide and she slammed her laptop lid shut. “I-I’m not saying you’re a bad cook! I just want to help! You shouldn’t have to—”

 

Relax.” Now Asami was laughing heartily. “I’m just going to put it in the oven. That’s it. I assure you, it’s a one person job.”

 

“You’re sure?” Korra’s eyes narrowed at the engineer.

 

“Yes. If you’re so concerned about helping, you can help me make a salad when the chicken’s done.” As soon as she’d offered, Korra nodded eagerly and slid her chair back to stand up. Asami stopped her with a raised hand. “But that won’t be for another half hour.” She paused, pointing to the laptop and giving Korra her best authoritative stare. “So get back to work.” 

 

Korra’s eyebrows shot up and she grinned. “Yes ma’am!” She saluted before opening up her laptop again.

 

At the beep of the timer, the two of them set aside their work and put the final touches on dinner in quiet, familiar coordination. Not that they’d ever done anything like this before. The smoothness with which they navigated the kitchen together and offered a hand or a utensil at the exact right moments should have probably struck Asami as uncanny. 

 

Except she was entirely too distracted by the way Korra hovered an open hand just over the small of her back every time she passed behind her. Although intended merely as a warning to avoid collisions, it sent Asami for a loop whenever she felt the intense warmth of Korra’s palm just beyond the reach of her skin. She nearly jumped the first time Korra actually touched her.

 

“Woops, sorry, just squeezing behind ya.” Korra said casually as she walked past, her hand sliding briefly across the fabric of Asami’s shirt. Fabric that Asami instantly wished was thinner. Or, better yet, not there. She’d stepped backwards from the counter, unaware of Korra’s proximity, right into Korra’s palm. 

 

“Oh, no problem.” She managed tightly, and threw her eyes up at the ceiling in a plea for mercy as she leaned forward to give Korra room to pass. The contact had been way too short for her liking, and still had managed to send tingles up and down her back. She sighed and forced the tension away from her shoulders. Let it go, Sato.

 

Without further bumps, dinner was served and they sat together on one side of the dining table, chatting amiably and candidly. Korra had this way of watching her as she spoke, listening so intently it made Asami feel like she would never tire of learning more about her. Asami felt it too; drawn inextricably into Korra’s anecdotes and the sweet mannerisms that accompanied them, her desire to know more only growing the more she discovered. Never had she had felt such an effortless connection with someone. Asami didn’t notice the time until Korra called her out on one too many yawns. 

 

“Man, I must be really boring.” The instructor teased with a grin.

 

Asami lowered her hand from where it covered her second yawn in as many minutes and glanced at Korra apologetically. “Quite the contrary. You are fascinating.” She winked, thoroughly enjoying the flattered bewilderment she put on Korra’s face. “Which is the only reason I’m still awake this far past my bedtime.”

 

Korra eyed her phone. “It’s only 9:30pm!”

 

“It is… but I wake up at five.” Asami reminded her gently. 

 

“Oh... Oh!” Asami watched the realization dawn in Korra’s eyes as she did the math to discover that yes, indeed, there were fewer than eight hours between now and when Asami planned on rolling out of bed in the morning. 

 

“Well I better get out of your hair then.” Korra smiled so softly at her then that Asami almost asked her to stay. 

 

She watched as Korra rose to carry their discarded plates to the sink, temporarily rooted in place while half of her brain tried to decipher what it was about Korra’s eyes that made Asami forget all the reasons she couldn’t have her. The other half pulled her back to reality, shaking away the futile thought so she could get out of her chair and help clean up. No excuse for being a bad hostess.

 

As Korra packed up her study materials and her ski boot bag, they realized simultaneously that she didn’t have a safe way home. Skiing down unilluminated slopes while Snow Cats were out grooming was not an option. Evidently their not-so-sober planning skills needed some polishing. 

 

“Uhm….” Korra turned uncertainly from her belongings.

 

“I’ll drive you.” Asami said decisively, reaching for her keys and wallet before Korra even had time to react. She looked at her hesitating instructor and cocked an eyebrow. “Unless you have a better idea?”

 

“I…” Korra sighed and glanced down. “I don’t. But I feel bad making you drive me again.”

 

“It’s close; just to the staff parking lot, right?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“It’s no big deal, Korra. Really.”

 

“You’re too sweet, Asami. Really.” Korra responded with a playful smirk that slapped an involuntary smile and a subtle blush on the engineer’s cheeks. “Just promise me you won’t fall asleep driving home by yourself.” Korra added.

 

“Promise.” 

 

Asami let Korra drive again, too taken with Korra’s giddy excitement about the new Stallion to think twice about offering. Too soon, they arrived at Korra’s car and said their goodbyes. “Text me when you get home safe.” Korra insisted and Asami nodded, repeating to herself that this was a completely normal thing to ask of friends. 

 

“I will. Goodnight Korra.”

 

“Night ‘Sami. See you tomorrow!” The nickname tugged at Asami’s heart again as Korra smiled and closed the door.

 

Dutifully, Asami sent her message as soon as she pulled into the garage.

 

Asami [21:47]

Home safe 

 

Without bothering to finish the dishes, she rushed her bedtime routine, chasing every minute of sleep she might recover. Asami smiled at her phone as she slipped under the covers.

 

Korra [22:03]

Me too. I think Naga was lonely =(

 

Asami [22:05]

Bring her next time :)

 

**

 

Tap tap tap . Korra wrinkled her brow, willing herself to keep focus on the screen. Tap tap tap. Her eyes darted once—just once!—to her study partner before she tore them away and squinted at the video of a very poorly executed side slip.

 

Tap tap tap. Ugh. The little movements in her peripheral vision were unimaginably distracting. Not that Asami was making any actual sounds. She was just… tapping her pen. Against her mouth, which she’d pressed into a small but delightfully full pout. And every time that pen smacked her lower lip, sinking into it ever so slightly and springing back from the supple flesh, Korra lost her goddamn mind.

 

She knew her friend was objectively attractive. She also knew that any of Asami’s features in isolation could still be considered stunning. Korra had accustomed herself to a distant, platonic appreciation of Asami’s striking beauty. She’d found it best to acknowledge her friend’s undeniable allure head on, respect it, and work really really hard to pretend it didn’t matter. To deny it or look away would only breed insanity.

 

Which was precisely what was happening to her right now. The first time she’d noticed Asami’s fidgety habit, she nearly choked on her water. Of all things to be forced to focus on, it had to have been Asami’s wonderfully shaped mouth. After her initial reaction, and after registering the absentminded quirk as ‘wow that’s kind of hot,’ Korra attempted to move on. And failed. Miserably.

 

Tap tap tap. Korra almost groaned in disbelief at the unfairness of it all. That accursed pen made her notice everything about those lips. The way they grew fuller as Asami drew them together. How unbelievably soft they must be, to dimple so deliciously at such delicate impact. Their intense color, even unpainted, and the warmth and vitality at which it hinted. And how Asami twitched and moved them in a thousand tiny ways that drove Korra into a tailspin picturing all the things Asami might do with them. Perfect. Kissable. And biteable. Definitely not things you should be thinking about.

 

Asami put the pen down. Oh thank god. Korra breathed a sigh of relief and returned her eyes to her laptop, glad to finally be free of the tantalizing distraction. Not a second later, another movement called her attention. She glanced over apprehensively, hoping the pen was still on the table. It was. Asami had just started typing. Whew, ok.

 

Then Korra looked up. Bad choice. What have I done to deserve this? Still in a ghost of a pucker, Asami had taken her lower lip between her teeth in concentration. Unngh no. The CEO cast her eyes to the ceiling, deep in thought, and worried that sumptuous lip until it turned even redder. Up until this point Korra had only imagined—only a little—what it might look and feel like to sink her teeth into those lips. Now there was far less to imagine and more to gawk at, completely transfixed. God help me, she’s too sexy for her own good.

 

As if she’d heard, Asami’s eyes came down from the ceiling and flicked over to Korra. She kept biting her goddamn lip as the glittery green filled with amusement and she leveled a playful look in Korra’s direction. ‘What?’ she asked with a quirk of an elegantly shaped brow. Korra almost yelled back ‘you know what!’ Instead she managed a goofy crooked grin and a sharp shake of her head before resuming her weak attempts at focus. Man. Having hot friends is hard.

 

**

 

Lessons changed too, after their arrangement. On their first lift up, Korra broached the subject hesitantly. “So um, Asami.”

 

“Yeah?” 

 

“I was thinking….” Korra fiddled with her ski poles and Asami tensed, mind sent reeling into worries that she’d given her feelings away somehow and that they had in fact spent too much time together and that Korra might want to stop and, and, and...

 

“If you wouldn’t mind…” Oh no. “I think it would be really good practice for me to talk through our lessons a little more.” Oh. What?

 

Asami took a beat to recover from her inner panic before her mouth could function. “What do you mean by ‘talk through?’”

 

Korra faced her, gesticulating with gloved hands and swinging ski poles. “Well, for the exam, I will have to explain what & why I’m teaching in terms of the CSIA fundamentals and techniques. In real life, no one actually talks that way; we just find the best way to communicate with the student and leave it at that.” Her voice shifted, taking an endearingly shy intonation. “But, um, I was hoping that since you’re being so awesome and studying with me, that you might be even more awesome and let me ramble on in instructor jargon so I can practice the explanations I might need during the Level 3 exam.” She finished off her request with a hopeful grin that Asami knew she could never deny.

 

“Ooooh.” Asami laughed at her own absurd self-consciousness.

 

“But only if that’s okay with you!” Korra added quickly, suddenly nervous. “You’re paying for lessons, not ‘help Korra practice,’ so I totally get it if you just want me to teach. I can do all the processing later, too, that’s no problem and I can write—”

 

“Korra, it’s alright. I don’t mind.” She interrupted. “It sounds rather interesting actually.”

 

“It is!” Korra’s voice brightened. “The way they take movements that feel so natural and break them down into basic concepts and biomechanics is so cool. Who’s the nerd now? “Except sometimes it’s hard for me to explain the movements I do without thinking, especially in the way the examiner needs to hear, you know? That’s what I need to work on.”

 

“I’m happy to help.” Asami smiled and shoved aside the other response her brain had conjured. I would help you with anything.

 

Work on it, they did. Before each drill, Asami watched Korra’s intense deliberation about how best to qualify her instruction. Asami, for her part, focused intently on keeping her face strictly neutral to disguise the affection warming her from within. Though the lingo took some getting used to, Asami found herself enjoying Korra’s detailed explanations. She even managed to learn a bit about what Korra noticed in her skiing and how and why to address it. Perhaps Korra’s raised goggles, furrowed brow, and adorable moue of concentration had something to do with it.

 

Or maybe it was the way that Korra beamed at her when Asami nodded her understanding and executed a drill perfectly. Or the way that Korra, so wrapped up in teaching, did not hesitate to use her hands to touch and move Asami to correct her body positioning, leaving the engineer more than a little off balance each time. 

 

Whatever the cause, Korra’s excitement was contagious. Asami grew increasingly motivated to keep up, comprehend, and improve—if only to draw another disarming smile and cheer from her instructor. In the end, thoroughly captivated by the enthusiasm of Korra’s focus, Asami concluded she rather liked the change of pace in their lessons. 

 

**

 

Mon, Feb 22nd

Asami [12:13pm]

Hey, I’m feeling pretty under the weather today. Going to have to raincheck for this afternoon.

 

Korra scowled at her phone. That blows. They hadn’t seen each other in a few days—okay, maybe just one day—and she was looking forward to resuming their new routine this week. She considered her options for a minute before responding as eloquently as she could.

 

Korra [12:15pm]

=(

 

She tucked her phone back into her jacket, mentally cataloguing everything she’d need to do after finishing up with lessons for the day.

 

The workday dragged on infinitely after Asami’s message, but when Korra finally clocked out she all but ran to her car to get started. After retrieving a very excitable Naga from home, Korra made a few stops for supplies then pointed herself in the direction of Whistler Village and the entrance to Asami’s neighborhood.

 

Korra fidgeted with Naga’s leash as she waited outside the door. I suppose it makes sense that she’s taking long… Almost two full agonizing minutes after she’d rang, she heard the deadbolt disengage and an involuntary smile pushed her cheeks upward. Naga’s ears perked up and her tail began to sweep a steady rhythm over the concrete step.

 

“Korra?” Asami sounded stuffy and congested as the door swung open. “Hey.” She held a tissue box in one hand and the doorknob with the other. “I’m sorry… Did you get my message earlier? I’m not feeling well today, figured we should skip so I don’t get you sick.” Even in her misery, Asami managed to be concerned for Korra’s wellbeing. 

 

“Nonsense!” Korra answered with a wide smile and held up her overflowing grocery bag and Naga’s leash.

 

“I-I don’t think I can really focus on studying right now…” The engineer looked down at her tissue box.

 

“I know! That’s not why I’m here.” She shook the grocery bag for emphasis. “I brought goodies. And an emotional support floof.” Naga, bless her, wiggled on her haunches and started panting at the perfect moment to accentuate Korra’s point. Korra smiled down at the pup and then up at Asami, who seemed rather nervous all of a sudden.

 

“Oh.” The engineer glanced at herself then shiftily around behind her. “I-I uh wasn’t expecting anyone, so everything’s kind of a mess.” Her eyebrows drew together in an unnecessarily apologetic expression.

 

“Psh, I don’t care.” Korra dismissed the absurd excuse.

 

“I-I’m a mess too…” Asami argued weakly, gesturing to herself with her tissues.

 

“You?” Korra paused to take in the sight in front of her. Asami, the edges of her nose a slight shade of pink and eyes a little squintier than normal, decidedly did not look a mess. She wore dark leggings tucked into thick fuzzy socks and an oversized knit sweater that engulfed her in the kind of coziness only achievable after hours laying in a warm bed. Her hair was pulled back in a loose, messy bun and strands of it hung haphazardly around her face. Hell, her tissue box almost matched her sweater. Korra thought she was beautiful. Leave it to Asami to be fashionable even while suffering. “You never look a mess ‘Sami. Today is no exception.”

 

Maybe Korra delivered her assessment with more tenderness than she should have because it seemed to have stunned Asami into silence. But before Korra could panic and walk it back, Asami’s expression softened and she smiled fondly as a subtle redness crept to her cheeks. Oh gosh. Korra was about to feel concerned about how impossibly cute Asami looked when the engineer stepped aside and gestured for her to come in. 

 

As soon as they crossed the threshold, Asami knelt down to Naga and lavished her with a few expertly placed scratches near her ears. Korra watched with a smile as Naga closed her eyes into the caresses and Asami fawned over her. “Oh baby girl you are so sweet. Did you come here to make me feel better, huh?” Naga panted her assent. “You are such a sweetheart, yes you are, coming here to take care of me like this.” Korra realized just a bit too late that Asami’s piercing green eyes were trained on her while she spoke to Naga. Oh.  

 

“Heh.” Korra shrugged an awkward smile and decided to leave it at that. 

 

She rummaged through the bag once they’d reached the kitchen. “I brought the essentials.” She announced each item as she retrieved it. “Cold & Flu medicine. Lotion-infused tissues. None of that ‘make your nose hurt’ crap.” She gave Asami’s tissue box a pointed glare before proceeding with her inventory. “Some Vitamin-C never hurts. Lemon-ginger tea, a must. And, of course, soup!” She gestured to three different containers from her preferred noodle shop in town. “I wasn’t sure what you liked, so I got all my favorites.”

 

“Wow, Korra. This is so kind.” Asami’s eyebrows drew up in appreciation. “But you forgot to mention one thing.” 

 

“What?” Shoot. I thought I got everything...

 

“You.”

 

“Me?”

 

“Yeah. You’re so sweet. Thank you for doing all this. You being here also counts.” Asami’s eyes did this thing. They widened and glittered and bore into her with such sincere appreciation it made Korra’s heart leap into her throat. Aw hell. Korra felt warmth in her face and looked away to keep herself steady.

 

“Oh. It’s nothing. Really.” She tried to dismiss the thrill of Asami’s unfiltered gratitude and its unanticipated effect.

 

“Hm.” Asami raised her eyebrows. Her playful tone relieved Korra’s tension immediately. “Well if this is nothing…” she gestured to the buffet of items on the kitchen counter, “something must be really special.”

 

“Ha!” Korra laughed, “Guess you’ll have to wait and see.” What? What does that even mean? Get it together, Korra. She chuckled and barreled forward to put the awkwardness behind her. “You hungry? Want some soup?”

 

“That would be lovely.” Asami responded softly. Again with that look. Gah!

 

“Great.” Korra held her breath to control the fluttering in her stomach. Stop that, Korra. “You go sit on the couch and get comfy. I’ll bring everything over.”

 

She noticed Asami about to protest and glowered at her, pointing authoritatively at the couch. “I said go. No arguments.”

 

A minute later, the kettle was on and Korra walked over with a fizzing glass of cold medicine. Asami had curled herself under a blanket in one corner and lovingly stroked Naga’s head, which the pup had laid with abandon on her lap. Naga side-eyed Korra, appalled that her presence caused the pets to stop. 

 

“Drink this.” Korra handed Asami the cup. “It’s got some acetaminophen, nothing too intense. But it’s magic for a cold, so drink it all.” She watched for a second to make sure Asami did as instructed. “Now, what kind of soup do you like? I got chicken noodle, minestrone, and a spicy curry-style one which is my personal favorite.”

 

“Oo, spicy sounds good.” Asami already sounded better as she emptied the glass. Korra took it from her before Asami could think about moving from her seat.

 

“Excellent choice.” Korra grinned. “Be right back.” 

 

Naga had resumed hogging all of Asami’s love and affection when Korra returned with a steaming mug full of soup. Asami gave Korra a questioning look as she accepted it.

 

“It’s way too hot for you to hold a bowl. This way you won’t burn your fingers and you won’t spill.” She explained with a knowing flash of her eyebrows.

 

“Bit of a genius yourself, hm?” 

 

“What can I say?” Korra responded with a cheesy grin. “I’ve had a lot of colds. Being sick is… snot fun.” 

 

Asami sputtered, nearly choking on her sip of soup as she guffawed at Korra’s terrible, unfunny, pun. “Oh my god Korra, that was awful.” She said between laughs, only spreading Korra’s grin wider.

 

“I’m here all night.” She joked back as she retreated to tend to the screeching kettle. She brought two mugs of lemon ginger tea, one with some honey for her patient. 

 

Setting them on the coffee table, Korra sat opposite Asami on the couch and turned to her with a fond smile. “How’s the soup?”

 

“Very good.” Asami hummed her answer with the bottom half of her face buried in the mug.

 

“Glad you like it. I brought tea, too. You need to stay hydrated.”

 

“Korra you’re a saint.” Asami said between delicate sips.

 

“Nah, I’m selfish.” Korra brushed the compliment aside, trying to ignore how the tender lilt in Asami’s voice made her heart pound. “Just want my study buddy back as soon as possible.”

 

Fleeing that look, she rotated towards the television, tucking her legs underneath her. “Want to watch something?”

 

“Sure,” Asami said, pulling her knees closer to her chest as she faced the screen. “Do you also have a magical cold-healing movie to make me watch?”

 

“Haha no, that I do not.” Korra glanced sideways and registered Asami’s droopy eyelids and long blinks. “But maybe something you can fall asleep watching? Sleep is important too.”

 

“I don’t know if I’ve ever fallen asleep watching TV…” The engineer wondered aloud.

 

“Is that a challenge for me to find the boring-est possible show to watch?” Korra asked eagerly.

 

“God no. Please.” Asami chuckled. “Perhaps a movie I’ve seen too many times, like the Fast and the Furious or something.”

 

Korra blinked at Asami, at once shocked and thrilled by this new information. “Hold up. I have questions.”

 

Asami smirked. “Alright, shoot.” 

 

“First of all. You like the Fast and the Furious?!” Korra’s eyes widened for emphasis.

 

“Of course I do. I’m a gearhead….” Asami dropped the pitch of her voice and mocked. “And it’s about family.

 

“Indeed it is.” Korra laughed out loud at Asami’s terrible Vin Diesel impression. You’re amazing. “Okay, next question. How many times have you seen them?”

 

“Depends on which one. I’ve watched them all at least twice.”

 

“Well that brings me to my next, and most important question: which is your favorite?”

 

“Ooo yes, very crucial thing to know about someone.” Asami raised an eyebrow as she set her soup mug down. “Will I lose you forever if I answer incorrectly?”

 

“Course not!” 

 

“Okay. Well, I obviously love them all. But the first one has a special place in my heart because it’s just so pure. I mean, low budget, bad lines, neon lights… it’s just short of perfect. Honestly the only thing missing from the first movie is Roman Pierce. He’s excellent.”

 

“I accept your incorrect opinion.” Korra nodded her head. “You are wrong about the first movie; the fifth movie is the best. It is known. But I will concede that Roman is great.

 

“The fifth?! What’s so good about Fast Five?!” Asami scowled adorably.

 

“What’s not good about Fast Five? The Rock. Brazil. Gal Gadot. It’s basically a bootleg remake of the Italian Job. Oh and did I mention Gal Gadot in Brazil?”

 

Asami laughed, bright and airy, leaving Korra to grin goofily back at her. “Well maybe I should give that one another shot then. I’ve only seen it a handful of times.”

 

“Done.” Before Asami could change her mind, Korra found the movie on whatever streaming service she could and pressed play.

 

As the beginning credits rolled through, she got up to put the dirty dishes away. When she came back to the couch, she sat near the center. A few inches closer to Asami. So I can pet Naga

 

Several minutes in, she turned to her friend, curled up under the blanket and knees tight against her chest. “You look uncomfortable.”

 

“Hm?” Asami glanced at Korra, a little dazed. “I’m okay.”

 

“You should stretch out. You’ll never fall asleep like that.”

 

Asami seemed to consider her options for a second. She looked like she wanted to refuse again, but her knees won the argument and a moment later she shifted and pushed her feet towards Korra.

 

Asami stopped a few inches away from Korra’s legs, leaving her in an awkward half-bent position that looked no better than her previous one.

 

“Here.” Korra reached out, gingerly grabbed her ankles, and tugged them onto her lap. This way, Asami’s knees were fully extended and she could lay on her back with her head propped up against the armrest, feet resting on Korra. “Better?”

 

Asami hesitated. Just long enough to make Korra doubt herself and question if maybe she was crossing a line. Had she crossed a line? Was this too… close? It came so naturally she hadn’t bothered to second guess until it looked like Asami had. Uh-oh.

 

A beat later Asami sighed contentedly. “Much better actually.” She closed her eyes then opened them, looking almost as panicked as Korra felt. “If it’s not uncomfortable for you?” She added quickly.

 

“No, I’m good.” Korra smiled. She turned back to the TV, ignoring that Asami might’ve felt awkward about this. Thinking about that would lead to thinking about why she felt that way and that train of thought was just… off limits.

 

Korra should probably have kept herself on alert instead of getting comfortable. She probably shouldn’t have rested her arms on Asami’s shins as she got caught up in the movie. And she definitely should not have started absentmindedly rubbing Asami’s feet. Except she did. And Korra knew how good she was at foot massages; Jinora asked for them all the time after her particularly grueling patrol days.

 

That didn’t change the effect that Asami’s soft sighs of pleasure had on Korra’s brain. Whatever hesitation Asami might have felt at first had evidently melted away. Because now, at the mercy of Korra’s fingers, Asami all but moaned in appreciation. It probably wasn’t actually that loud, but to Korra those small sounds drowned out even the raucous explosions and crashes on the television. Remember you are trying to help her relax and sleep, Korra. Sleep. 

 

It worked. Soon enough, the sounds died down into gentle murmurs and Asami muttered groggily as her eyes fluttered shut and her head lolled to one side. “You’re amazing Korra I love you.”

 

Korra nearly froze, eyes wide as saucers. Through muscle memory alone she kept her fingers moving and managed to avoid alerting Asami of her reaction. Don’t. Panic. Nothing to fret about when a friend says they love you. Relax. Relax. Relaxxx.


She must’ve repeated the word over in her head a half dozen times before she heard a quiet snore from her left. At first she turned to Naga until she heard it again as Asami exhaled. Oh my god. Snores had never been cute before. Korra stilled her hands and smiled at the sleeping engineer. Success. She sighed and shifted so she could reach her backpack and study materials. Korra adjusted Asami’s feet in her lap and settled in to review her note cards while her patient slept happily beside her.

Chapter Text

Korra led her by the wrist through a hazy crowd. They had to get to the school in time. 

 

They ran, Korra’s magnetic energy pulling Asami along as much as the grip on her arm. In a blink they were in the building, flying through the halls until Korra stole into a room, Asami on her heels.

 

Korra turned, trapping Asami between her and the door. She reached over Asami’s shoulder and pushed it closed. Korra’s arm remained against the door and she took a step, halving the distance between them. Asami felt her breath catch as Korra looked up at her.

 

The striking blue of her stare froze Asami in place. It didn’t matter she had nowhere to go, Korra’s gaze incinerated any will to flee. They had a singular focus, those staggering eyes, boring into Asami and communicating exactly what they wanted. Korra took another step and Asami’s heart stopped.

 

In her peripheral, Korra’s arm moved. She felt, before she saw, Korra’s fingers reach for her. Her eyelids fluttered closed to luxuriate in the sensation of Korra tracing her fingertips across the cut of her jaw, down the column of her neck, and over the curve of her collarbone. The featherlight touches left goosebumps in their wake and Asami shakily opened her eyes to find Korra’s again. She couldn’t bear to stay away from the depths of that blue for too long. Not when it told her everything she wanted to hear.

 

Korra’s palm pressed against her chest, fingers lingering on the sensitive skin at the base of her throat, and pushed. The pressure set her heart into overdrive as she yielded and walked backwards. For every step she took, Korra took a mirrored one, never increasing the distance between them. Even as the cool wood of the door met Asami’s back, Korra continued to come forward.

 

Asami couldn’t say when Korra’s other hand had found her hip. But now her thumb had slipped beneath the hem of Asami’s tank and drew excruciatingly light patterns across Asami’s hip bone. Fingertips traveled slowly back up Asami’s neck, and Korra let the pad of her thumb trail upward along the front of Asami’s throat, making it impossible for Asami to find air. The agonizing exploration had Asami ready to fall to her knees. She would have if not for the press of the door and Korra’s warmth holding her upright.

 

An eternity later, Korra’s fingertips found Asami’s mouth. Asami moaned softly as Korra thumbed the outline of her lower lip. Tender fingers tucked a strand of hair behind her ear before finally, finally, Korra lifted her chin.

 

Asami let her head fall as Korra rose to meet her. Their foreheads touched and their noses waited side by side as Korra paused, her lips a hair’s breadth away. So close. Close enough that when Korra spoke, her words kissed Asami’s mouth before she’d gotten the chance. “Asami.” She nearly cried at the sound of her name, quiet as a prayer. 

 

“Asami.” Korra said it again, more rhythmically. Asami pressed forward, regaining enough of her faculties to close the space between them. 

 

Even as they kissed, Korra kept whispering her name. Three syllables, uttered repeatedly in an eerily familiar pattern. “A-sa-mi. A-sa-mi.”

 

As Korra’s lips brought her to life, the sound of her name blended with the beating of her heart. Thump thump thump. A-sa-mi. Dum. Dum. Dum.

 

The drumming called to her, drew her away from this magical moment and sucked her into that repetitive beat. Dum dum dum. Bzz bzz bzz.

 

She blinked at the darkness around her and the artificial blue light that lit up her bedside table. Bzz bzz bzz. Half-conscious, Asami registered that her phone was ringing. She clumsily picked it up, noting the time, 23:12, before answering.

 

“Yes?” She muttered, still half asleep.

 

“Asami?” Korra’s voice brought the dream to roaring life around her. Brought Korra’s lips against hers once more.

 

“Mmm Korra….” Asami slurred blissfully into the phone as her eyes slid closed and she found herself trapped happily between Korra and the door again.

 

“Hey. I’m sorry, did I wake you?” 

 

“Hm? Just a little.” Asami hummed softly. “Was having a nice dream about you.”

 

“Really now? Dreaming about me?” The playful surprise in Korra’s tone, so different from the breathy seductive whisper in her dream, jolted Asami awake. Oh god, what did I just do?  

 

She heard Korra chuckle through the line as Asami fought for enough consciousness to figure out how to dig herself out of this hole. “What was your dream about?” Korra asked, making no effort to hide the bemusement in her voice.

 

Having you. “Um, it’s kind of fuzzy but…” Your hands on me. “Something fun I think.” Letting you take your time to touch me. “I think we were skiing? Not sure.” Asami cleared her throat to force the sleepy fog and the lump of desire out of her voice.

 

“Hope I’m not driving you too crazy with lessons. Don’t want you having skiing nightmares.” Korra’s quip helped Asami closer to wakefulness.

 

“Nah, it was a nice dream.” She nearly moaned again at the thought of it and shot her eyes wide in focused panic. “I think. Not a nightmare at least.”

 

“Good! Because that brings me to why I called.” Korra’s excitement and consequent volume startled her alert. “I’m really sorry for calling so late; I forgot you go to bed so early. But I promise it’s worth it.”

 

“What is it?” Asami yawned.

 

“It’s snowing.”

 

Tell me you did not wake me up to announce that it’s snowing. “That’s why you called?” Bitterness trickled into her voice involuntarily.

 

“Yeah! It’s snowing, snowing ‘Sami. Like lots of fresh powder snowing. Tomorrow’s going to be a POW day!” Asami could practically hear Korra’s grin through the phone.

 

“And you called because…?” 

 

“Because I want you to come ski with me tomorrow!” Korra hesitated for a moment before launching into a rambling explanation. “I know you have work, but I thought I’d ask anyway… it’s my day off so I’m going out first thing, probably even a bit ahead of first chair… and since teaching a powder skiing lesson is potentially one of the Level 3 exam tasks and since I haven’t taught you yet, I was just kinda hoping you’d maybe take a day and come ski with me so I can practice. I know you’re super busy but… free ski lesson and pow day—I promise I’d make it worth your while!”

 

Will you kiss me like you should be doing right now in my dream? Asami stopped short of muttering the question aloud. She should probably hold back her irritability. Korra was only being her usual adorable self, despite her awful timing. “Um, I have to check tomorrow morning if I can swing it. It’s just past 2am on the east coast right now, so I can’t exactly clear my schedule at the moment.”

 

“Oh…” The disappointment in her voice broke Asami’s heart. God I’m such a sucker.

 

“What time are you heading out?”

 

“I’ll be at the base at 8am.”

 

“How about you text me around 7:30 and I’ll let you know? That’ll give me some time in the morning to get things going and see if I can clear a few hours or the whole day. Sound good?”

 

“Yes!” Korra whooped. “Pleeeaaase try to make it. It’ll be so fun.”

 

“I will. Now I’m going back to sleep. Goodnight Korra.”

 

“Night ‘Sami! Sweet dreams.” She snickered into the phone. Oh you snarky little shit. Korra hung up before Asami could retort.

 

She sighed, set the device aside and turned over to bury herself in her comforter. Her eyes fell closed and she let her mind wander back to the fleeting images and sensations of that dream. Korra’s fingertips on her skin, how she’d ached to feel them there, the searing gaze of bright blue eyes, reflecting her desire with breathtaking promise. As she drifted to sleep, Asami hoped her subconscious would pick up right where it left off.

 

*

 

“Here.” Korra held out a wide pair of skis in Asami’s direction. “These will be way better for today than your all-mountains.”

 

Asami regarded the unfamiliar gear suspiciously. “Aren’t those a little long for me?”

 

“Not for snow like this.” Korra grinned and pushed the skis closer. “Trust me.”

 

She took the pair from Korra and eyed them warily, noting their width underfoot and wondering if turning would even be possible on these. Before she could complain again, Korra moved behind her and placed both hands on Asami's shoulders. She froze, hyper alert to the proximity, until Korra ruthlessly stomped down on her bindings, popping her ski boots loose. 

 

“Wh—aah!” Asami yelped as Korra pushed her forward and she stumbled out of the comfortable connection to her skis. Just before she fully lost her balance, Korra’s strong hands pulled her back upright. She heard Korra’s jovial laugh at her expense and turned an admonishing glare on her friend, only to be met with an unfairly contagious smile that crinkled the skin around Korra’s bright eyes. Asami began to laugh even as she cried out indignantly. “What the hell?!”

 

“Don't be so attached to your skis!” Korra gasped with glee at her own terrible joke. “You’ll do great on these other ones, I promise!”

 

“Korra you are such a dork.” Asami shook her head as she found her own feet again. Korra grinned and bent down to gather Asami’s skis without giving her any time to argue.

 

“I’ll keep these with my stuff here at the ski school. We can come by and grab them later.” She began to jog towards the building and called over her shoulder. “I’ll be right back! Get clicked in to those new ones and feel them out. Stomp around a bit!”

 

Asami begrudgingly did as she was told, trying to get a feel for the new length and width as she flexed to manipulate the skis in the snow. This is going to feel different.

 

“Let’s go!” Korra was back in a flash, on her own wide pair of powder skis, skating energetically past Asami and to the chairlift.

 

Korra waved as she approached the chair operator and it occurred to Asami that they were beginning their day along with the guests who had paid for First Tracks access today, a full hour before opening time. She smiled appreciatively at Korra, who chatted and laughed with the chair operator and Ski Patrol staff that manned the closed lift line. 

 

When they settled on the lift, whisked upward to a promising day of fresh snow, Asami turned to Korra. “How'd you manage to allow us up so much earlier than opening?”

 

“It pays to be staff sometimes.” Korra shrugged with a sideways smile.

 

“I get the impression not all ski instructors have these perks…” Asami pressed.

 

“Uhhhh I guess maybe not?” The instructor sounded a bit dumbfounded and Asami laughed.

 

“I don't think you realize how much everyone loves you, Korra.”

 

“What? That’s ridiculous. Are you saying I get preferential treatment?” Korra seemed a little shaken by the notion and turned her gaze towards her skis, humming her doubts to herself.

 

“That’s exactly what I’m saying. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of.” Asami leaned over and bumped their shoulders together. “You get preferential treatment because it’s impossible not to like you.” The engineer smiled and Korra looked at her bewildered. “I mean it. You genuinely care about the people you meet and they can tell. It makes people feel good. I think that’s why you get away with stuff like this. You’ve got a way with people; it’s amazing.”

 

“Oh…” Korra looked away again, suddenly bashful.

 

“Definitely works out in my favor.” Asami grinned and Korra chuckled.

 

“Lucky you.” Korra muttered and Asami laughed her agreement. “So.” Korra sounded eager to move on. “Did you sleep well? Good dreams?” She goaded.

 

Asami stammered at the change in topic and Korra’s pointed reference to her embarrassing confession last night. Grateful for the neck warmer covering her blush, Asami thought back to how she’d woken up this morning. Warm, sweaty, out of breath, her hand already on its way to the space between her legs. She’d spent a very pleasurable few minutes in bed hovering between consciousness and her lascivious dream while her fingers deftly provided the relief her body had craved all night. Not a bad start to the day. “Slept great, thanks for asking.” She responded flatly and Korra guffawed.

 

“No dreams then? I didn’t come back?” Asami could practically imagine Korra’s playful eyebrow wiggle. If Korra only knew.

 

You definitely came

 

“Wouldn’t you like to know.” Asami said, even more suggestively, and decided to leave Korra wondering. “So where are we headed?”

 

Korra composed herself and perked up at the question. “Wherever the snow takes us! I want to hit as much untouched fluff as I can. Skiing powder is like… bouncing on clouds.”

 

“Anything I should know so I don’t kill myself?” Asami asked, staring apprehensively at the massive skis attached to her boots.

 

“Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. We’ll go through everything and by the end of the day you’ll forget you were ever nervous.”

 

“Alright… Can you start now?” 

 

Korra chuckled at Asami’s impatience and covered a few basics on the last of their ride up. “You want even balance between your two skis and, counterintuitively, you want to push your weight forward. Turning is less about pressure on the outside ski and more about steering and applying even downward pressure against the snow. The snow kind of catches you and launches the skis into your turn. It feels like flying.”

 

“Hm, okay.” Asami focused on her feet in her boots and tried to picture the difference between what she knew how to do and what Korra described. 

 

“The best part is that if you fall, the powder will catch you. And it slows you down as well. Don’t stress!” Korra knocked sideways against Asami reassuringly. “I’ll be with you the whole time.”

 

After a few very welcome body positioning adjustments from Korra—Asami truly appreciated her more hands-on style—she ventured her first run. As soon as she’d accustomed herself to the new feeling of her skis’ relationship with the snow and felt that delightful springiness that pushed her into each turn, she was hooked.

 

“Korra this is incredible!” She whooped as she came to a stop in knee-deep snow next to her beaming instructor.

 

“Right?! I knew you’d love it!” Korra bounced up and down on her skis. “Let’s keep going; there’s no time to waste!”

 

Korra toured them across Blackcomb’s frontside to the far reaches of the lifts before diving into the backside bowls. “This will give us probably another hour of fresh tracks before the regular lifts let people reach us.” Her smile was as big as Asami had ever seen it and she thrummed with energy as they hit their next run on a blanket of untouched white.

 

This is amazing.  

 

It began to snow again on their chair ride up. Korra took a minute to check Asami’s gear was properly set—snow skirt closed, hood tightened over helmet—to ensure she stayed as toasty and dry as possible. Her attentiveness and care did their fair share of warming Asami from within.

 

Persistently looking over her shoulder to keep Asami in sight, Korra led them on a traverse into the far corners of the Blackcomb glacier. The steeps would normally have given Asami pause, but with the snow this forgiving, the day so exhilarating, and Korra’s unwavering guidance, she felt nothing but the thrill of skiing someplace new.

 

Until they found themselves above a chute. On a steep like this, careening downward between rocks, Asami’s confidence plummeted. There were two paths to take, neither of which appeared to offer a less terrifying way down. 

 

“Hey.” Korra’s soft, confident voice pulled her focus. “You can do this.”

 

“I know.” Asami replied quietly. “It’s just a little nerve-wracking.”

 

Korra slid down just beneath her and looked up. “It’s just like before. Keep your weight forward on your skis and let the snow do the work. It’ll keep you going slow. Try not to stop. Focus on keeping a steady rhythm, searching for that bouncy feeling. Don’t think about turning, just turn. You’ll be down before you know it.”

 

Asami nodded, letting her eyes wander over the gravity-defying slope falling below. Korra reached out and wrapped gloved fingers around her hand. “You got this. I’ll head down first and check it out. Then you can follow my tracks and try to turn the same way I did. Okay?”

 

“Okay.” That helped. Focusing on copying Korra’s turns would stop her from dwelling on the severity of the incline. “Okay, yeah. Let’s do it.” She smiled at Korra, more focused on reassuring herself than her companion.

 

“I’ll head down a ways then call back for you to follow. When you get going, remember: don’t stop.” Korra squeezed her hand once before turning to face the run and pick her line. In the most useless, sardonic part of her mind, Asami was reminded of Korra moaning something to that effect in her dream last night. 

 

Asami snorted but shoved the thought away and focused on Korra’s form; paying close attention to the way she held herself and her turns until she dipped out of sight around a rocky outcrop. Just follow where she goes. Exactly the way she’s doing it. I’ll be alright.

 

A minute later, she heard Korra’s voice. It sounded more distant than she’d expected. The snowfall had increased, muffling all sound while the mountain between them blocked it. “Hey, Asami!”

 

“Yeah!” She yelled back.

 

“You’re going to have to go the other way!”

 

What? Why? “Are you alright?” Asami asked, feeling panic grip her insides.

 

“Yep, I’m good!” Korra sounded perfectly fine, her voice bordering on too casual. “There are some rocks this way. The other side will be better; I can see it from here.”

 

Godamnit why can’t I see her?! Asami tried with all her might not to worry. Korra was a more experienced skier than anyone Asami would meet in her lifetime. She’s okay. She’s okay. She’s okay.

 

While Asami worked to control her breathing, Korra appeased her once again. “I’m fine Asami!” Her voice echoed from afar. “Come down whenever you’re ready.”

 

Okay. Asami released a long measured breath and took a moment to search for a clear path. She’d be able to stop when the slope let up. And when she could have eyes on Korra. Okay.

 

Another breath. Another scan. Just go. 

 

Okay. She wiggled her skis out of their sunken position and let them rotate downhill, holding her breath as they began to slide. It was steep. So very steep. Don’t think about turning, just turn . Korra’s words echoed in her mind and she forcibly controlled her breaths into a rhythm she could follow with her poles, using them to reach down the mountain and help initiate the motion of each turn. Just keep turning.  

 

Asami exhaled and turned, exhaled and turned. She pushed a little harder into the snow and it obliged, slowing her skis to a speed she could tolerate at this pitch. A few turns in, she found a steady pace and felt the tension in her shoulders ease as she gained confidence in her turns. 

 

The slope began to subside, though still heavily inclined, and she mapped her way to a small crest ahead where she might stop. In seconds, she was there, digging into her turn to bring herself to a halt. “Yeaaaahhh!” Overwhelming exhilaration and adrenaline pushed an exuberant shout from the depths of her lungs up to the sky. 

 

“Hell yeah Asami!” A far-off cheer called her attention. She turned uphill to grin at her instructor, who applauded energetically with her ski poles from afar. 

 

The grin gave way to dread when she noticed Korra’s location. Oh my god Korra.

 

She had stopped several yards uphill of a colossal boulder, several feet tall. It looked more like a wall from Asami’s vantage point. To the right, a narrow corridor of snow provided the only path downward between the boulder and the tall outcroppings that had split the run in two. The corridor had been filled by the recent snowfall and seemed… precarious at best. Korra would have to ski straight through it, no turns, to be able to fit. Oh god.

 

Asami waved shakily up at her, feeling a knot tightening in her stomach. Korra was hesitating. She never hesitated. Asami watched, sweating with worry as Korra adjusted herself to prepare for her descent. Asami noticed the barest nod of her head, sharp and intentional before Korra propelled herself forward, driving hard against the snow with her poles and a few skates of her skis.

 

She didn’t head for the corridor. Oh no. Korra rowed a few more times, driving her poles into the snow to pick up the breakneck speed required to do what she was about to do. Oh please don’t. The next few seconds played themselves out before Asami in slow motion.

 

Mere feet away from the edge of the boulder, Korra coiled her body just so. A split second later she exploded off the rock, launching snow into the air behind her skis as she flew forward. Then she dropped, careening downward and angling her skis to match the pitch of the fast approaching slope. Asami stood, wide-eyed and frozen, as Korra crashed into the mountainside in a cloud of snow so thick it obscured the rocks behind her.

 

Oh no. “Korra!” Asami heard her own scream distantly, too petrified to look away. No. The airborne snow made it impossible to see and she searched the white frantically for what felt like an eternity. NO.

 

Without waiting to confirm her worst fear, she began to sidestep up the hill. Korra was a long way away and the only way to make the climb in this amount of snow was with her skis on her feet. She’d get to her. She’d help.

 

Two steps in she heard Korra’s yell. “WOOHOOOO.” Asami blinked in shock and whirled around to find the source of the scandalously elated sound.

 

Korra! The instructor was upright, speeding down the hill, turning entirely too infrequently and cheering the whole way. Headed straight for Asami. Oh shit no.

 

“ASAMI I DID IT!” Korra screamed and forced herself into a dramatic stop just inches from Asami’s skis.

 

“Did what? Almost kill me?!” The engineer blurted out, breathless. She was shaking, reeling from the horror of thinking Korra had been hurt only to find her hurtling towards Asami looking like she wouldn’t stop.

 

“Haha no! I jumped. ” Korra was panting, laughing, bouncing, absolutely exuberant. “I jumped ‘Sami. I haven't… I hadn’t… HAHA! this is … it was the first time!”

 

The weight of the realization pushed the air out of her lungs. “Oh my god! You did!” She felt the excited bouncing begin in her own legs, timed to Korra’s own movements. “I’m so proud of you!” 

 

The instructor pulled her neck gaiter down and smiled. An impossibly large toothy grin that pressed her cheeks against her helmet and pushed her goggles upwards on her forehead. Frustrated with the goggles, Korra tore them off and beamed again, blue eyes twinkling.

 

Korra pushed herself forward, sliding her skis between Asami’s, and crashed into her, releasing her poles to wrap her arms snugly around the engineer's waist. She rested her cheek—or, rather, her helmet—against Asami’s chest. As Korra squished the air out of her, Asami yelped in equal parts excitement and delight. The yelp turned into a squeal of surprise when Korra lifted her off the snow, still clutching her tight.

 

“Ah! Korra!” Asami giggled. She giggled. “Ah be careful! You’re going to knock us over!” She gripped Korra’s shoulders, barely aware of when she’d dropped her ski poles.

 

“Oh are you scared?” Korra’s mischievous tone promised nothing but trouble.

 

“No, I’m ju—aah!” Before her words were out, Korra tipped to one side. Holding Asami aloft and rendering her legs useless, Korra let them fall sideways uphill. She didn’t move her arms from around Asami’s waist and the two of them collapsed into the mountainside against a pillow of snow that puffed into the air as it received them.

 

They landed beside one another, skis still attached and pointed sideways across the hill. Asami heard Korra’s bubbling laugh before she could see her. Her own goggles had protected her vision, but when she blinked her eyes open she saw Korra had screwed hers shut against the onslaught of snow that infiltrated her helmet and blanketed her face.

 

“Oh no Korra.” Asami laughed and her hand found Korra’s cheek in an instant, gently brushing snow away from her eyes, nose, and mouth with her glove. Korra chuckled at the swipes, keeping her arms in place. One was trapped beneath Asami but the other, despite being free to move, stayed locked around her waist. Their legs and skis had tangled in the fall and they lay awkwardly on their sides, each with a shoulder on the snow, knees atop one another, gear strewn about in what probably looked like the yardiest of yard sales.

 

Once enough snow had been removed, Korra's eyes shot open and fixated on Asami. The pressure around her waist subsided as Korra lifted her free hand to push Asami’s goggles up from her face. Without the tinted lens, Korra’s eyes shone bluer than Asami had ever imagined and her breath caught at the sight of that intense color, so vivid and full of joy, focused solely on her.

 

They lay together, buried in white as more snow fell over them, deadening any nearby sounds or movement. Enveloped in the fluff, wrapped around each other, they were utterly alone. Korra’s eyes smiled, overflowing with giddy elation, and Asami stared back, too anchored to think about how their clothes would soon soak through and how challenging it would be to recover all their gear in this mess. The only thought Asami had space for in her head, beyond the gravity of Korra’s eyes, was where Korra’s hand would end up. 

 

Korra had removed Asami’s goggles. Her hand had two places to go after that: back onto Asami, or onto herself. There was no room between them, Korra had guaranteed as much with her crushing hug. Asami felt her heartbeat quicken as Korra lowered her arm. For an endless second, her hand hovered promisingly over Asami’s hip. Please.

 

Asami hadn’t noticed herself holding her breath. She hadn’t noticed the heat in her face or how her eyes had widened in anticipation of Korra’s touch. Most of all, she hadn’t known how she ached for it. But with the promise right there, dangling above her, her brain rebooted and for a few opportune seconds her urges reigned supreme. Her own hand found Korra’s, guiding it down to rest where she wanted it most. On her.

 

Through layers of clothing and gloves and probably some snow, Korra’s hand was still hot and heavy on her hip, burning where it sat. Asami released her breath slowly, willing her brain to stay off so she could savor the affectionate moment before crushing doubt set in like it should.

 

Her exhale blew a stream of snowflakes directly into Korra’s face. Korra squinted against the snow and laughed, removing her hand to wipe it away. Asami had no time to mourn the contact because Korra swiftly returned the favor, blowing a much more substantial torrent of cold towards Asami’s forehead.

 

“Ahh!” The engineer squirmed against the flakes assaulting her cheeks and Korra belly-laughed with glee. 

 

“Can’t let something like that go unanswered!” Korra laughed and brought that ponderous hand to rest sedately on Asami’s shoulder. Her eyes still twinkled, bluer than blue, and they softened as she looked at Asami earnestly. “Thank you.”

 

“For what?” Asami whispered. It felt appropriate to speak quietly at Korra’s hushed, reverent tone. 

 

“For… being here with me. For being so incredible, for… letting me be me. I don’t think I could’ve done that without you.” Korra squeezed Asami’s shoulder and her eyebrows drew together, emphasizing the weight of every word.

 

“Don’t be silly.” Asami answered, giving Korra a playful push with her untrapped hand. “That was all you.” She smiled softly then let her voice turn mockingly serious. “Really. I would have never let you do something that crazy if I’d known that’s what you were planning.”

 

“It… wasn’t really the plan. There was a different way down.” Korra scrunched up her face.

 

“I saw.”

 

“But I dunno… when I saw you ski down, super well by the way, I was so… happy. I saw you face your fear and kick ass and it just… made me feel like I could too. It was the first time since the accident that I felt like I could . It was just… kind of a perfect storm. Perfect day, perfect snow, perfect opportunity, and perfect shredding buddy.” Korra smiled at her again and Asami melted. 

 

“So I decided ‘ screw it, let’s do it.’ ” Korra’s eyes widened with exaltation as she breathed her next words. “And I flew , ‘Sami.” She rotated her torso away, keeping her legs tangled between Asami’s but turning so she lay with her back against the mountain, arms spread wide as she stared at the sky. “I flew.

 

“You did.” Asami smiled at the woman beside her, overwhelmed with fondness and elation for her. Korra turned her head and found Asami’s eyes again. Her soft blue gaze glistened with moisture but radiated nothing but the buoyant swell of joy. Korra looked so pure, so happy, so genuine… Asami sighed and made a wish to keep that expression in her memory forever, along with the press of Korra’s arm beneath her and the lingering tingle of Korra’s hand on her hip.

 

I think I’m falling in love with you.

 

The thought slammed into her like a freight train, sending her careening off the rails of sanity and plunging her into dark, icy terror. She turned over on her back, mirroring Korra’s position and looking aimlessly at the sky.

 

Fuck.

 

*

 

Asami held herself together for the rest of the day. She managed to laugh (genuinely), ski, and indulge Korra in all her sudden impulses after they’d stood up and cleaned each other off. Yes, they brushed the snow off each other, hands wandering all over one another’s backs as Asami clung desperately to the air that flitted feebly in and out of her lungs. 

 

She watched Korra’s confidence rise exponentially as the instructor barreled forward, giddy with her newfound courage, and took them to every cliff she could jump from while Asami watched from a safe distance. 

 

It meant more steep skiing for Asami and a lot more looking at Korra, appreciating and admiring as she thrived and played in her element. As if the woman needed more help being attractive. This Korra felt more alive than Asami had thought possible. The energy about her, radiating from within her, was galvanic and contagious and it tore through Asami’s heart like butter. She was absolutely done for, drawn to Korra with an intensity she’d never felt before in her life. And while she was helpless to the feeling, letting it crash over her repeatedly—every time Korra tossed her a smile over her shoulder or came barrelling down to her with a shit-eating grin after landing a gravity-defying jump—the futility of it all crushed her soul in an iron grip that she knew would never slacken.

 

Damn it all to hell.

 

Those were the exact words she texted Opal when she and Korra finally parted ways at the offshoot to her house. Korra didn’t miss the opportunity to wrap Asami in one more bone-cracking hug and give her another one of those laden looks that made Asami fall apart inside. She’d been a breath away from inviting Korra up so they could enjoy the hot tub and relax away the intensity of the day—she would be sore tomorrow no doubt. Fortunately, some mindful self-preservation instinct reminded her that would be a Bad. Idea. and she let the invitation die on her tongue.

 

Opal [16:12]

Call me.

 

Asami obliged, too emotionally blasted to care about Opal’s inevitable gloating. But it was only concern she encountered when her friend’s face answered her video call.

 

“What’s wrong babe?” Opal asked without greeting. All it took was a sigh and Opal knew . “It’s Korra, isn’t it?” Asami nodded, shaking her head pitifully. “What happened?”

 

“Nothing happened, Opal. Nothing. ” Asami groaned in frustration and pressed fingers to her own temple. “She looks at me and it feels like everything but literally nothing happened.”

 

“She looks at you?” The short-haired woman prodded quizzically.

 

“Yeah it’s… ugh I know how stupid this sounds. This isn’t some movie. But she has this way of looking at me and it just… I don’t even… I don’t know. It makes me feel things.” Asami shrugged, resigned to her misery.

 

“What things?”

 

Asami hesitated. She shouldn’t say it out loud. That would give it too much power, too much reality. Instead, she gave Opal a very pointed look.

 

“Oh...” Her friend breathed out in understanding. I love you Opal, you are the greatest friend on this earth. “Oh dear.”

 

“Mhm.” Asami shook her head again.

 

“Is she still with…?”

 

“Mhm.” Asami nodded her confirmation.

 

“And you guys haven’t…?”

 

Nothing , O.”

 

“Then how do you know you’re in…?”

 

“I don’t even think I can answer that.” Asami whined dejectedly. “We just… spend a lot of time together. And talk a lot. About everything. And I think it just sort of… developed without me noticing.”

 

“Oh honey.” Asami could feel the comforting hug in Opal’s voice and she appreciated her friend immensely. “Why today though?”

 

“Today… I took the day off to go skiing with her. We got a ton of fresh snow overnight and she wanted to teach me how to ski powder. It was amazing by the way; we need to do this with Bo because I think he will lose his mind.” Opal laughed and nodded but didn’t interrupt. “Anyway, we were in a tight spot on a pretty rough run and she had to jump off a cliff.”

 

“Excuse me, WHAT?!

 

“I told you her Olympic sports were slopestyle and halfpipe, right?”

 

“Yeah…”

 

“Well, that’s the kind of thing she’s used to: air, flips and spins. Or, was used to, before her accident.”

 

“Okay…”

 

“So, that cliff today. It was the first time she’d let herself jump, at all, since the accident.”

 

“Wow. That’s a big deal, right?”

 

“Extremely. And it was incredible. She was incredible. She was beside herself; so elated that she practically tackled me into the snow.”

 

“Oh?” Opal’s voice piqued with interest.

 

“Nothing happened, O.” Asami sighed and rolled her eyes. “She just laid there and looked at me. And thanked me for being there for her. Told me she couldn’t have done it without me and stared at me with those annoyingly, stupidly, unfairly blue eyes of hers.” She clenched her eyes shut and the memory flashed like fire bright against her eyelids. “So blue. Sometime in that moment I realized what I was feeling and now… I’m so screwed, Opal.”

 

“Aw babe. Do you think you have a chance with her?”

 

“What?!” Asami’s eyes flew open and she stared incredulously at the screen.

 

“Do you think you have a shot?” Opal insisted, failing to see how inappropriate it would be for Asami to try anything.

 

“She’s still with Kuvira.”

 

“That’s not what I asked.” This was the Opal she knew, so persistent, so far on Asami’s side that she couldn’t care less about the damage Asami’s happiness might cause to other people.

 

“I… It doesn’t matter.”

 

“Yes it does, Asami.” Opal pressed on. “If you think she might feel the same way, then her relationship with Kuvira is probably doomed anyway.”

 

“That’s not necessarily tru—” Asami tried to argue but Opal cut her off.

 

“Maybe not, but if there’s a chance Korra feels the same way then you need to find out.”

 

“Why?” Asami cried out in frustration. “Even if she does feel… whatever this is… what’s the point? I’ll be gone in a month and what will we get out of it? Sex? I mean that’s wonderful and all, but I don’t think I’d be doing myself any favors by letting myself fall harder for her only to pick up and leave a few weeks later.”

 

Opal sighed heavily. “You’re right. It’s probably better to assume there’s nothing there and Korra doesn’t have any feelings at all.”

 

“Definitely.” Asami swallowed hard against the lump in her throat.

 

“Too bad you don’t believe that.” Opal's eyebrows shot up and she gave her camera a pointed glance that made Asami feel like she was looking right through her.

 

“I…” Argh, you know me too well Opal. “Ugh. Damn it all to hell.”

 

**

 

The phone only rang once.

 

Kuvira [4:42pm]

Sorry, I can’t talk right now.

 

The pre-scripted message flashed on her screen like the same old disappointment from any other day. Except today wasn’t any other day. Today Korra had conquered and nothing would take that away from her.

 

Korra [4:43pm]

I jumped today! Pow day, in a chute at Sapphire bowl, ended up above a boulder and just went for it. Full send. Clean landing, too!

 

Kuvira [4:43pm]

That’s excellent news

 

Hell yeah it is! Korra grinned proudly and stuffed her phone into her jacket so she could unlock her apartment. She wrestled a wriggling Naga to the floor in a tangle of limbs and fur and let the dog lick every inch of her face with abandon.

 

“Good day?” Jinora asked with amusement from the kitchen.

 

“The best.” Korra beamed up at her roommate from the floor.

 

“We were out at avalanche control. The snow looked incredible.”

 

“It was. I gave Asami a powder lesson today; practicing the task for the Level 3 exam. I think I nailed it.” Korra smiled at the memory of Asami thundering down that double diamond. “She picked it up really fast.”

 

“Asami’s a pretty exceptional learner.” Jinora nodded her agreement.

 

Exceptional. That rang true in every sense of the word.

 

“I uh…” Korra got up, shaking off as much fur as she could. “I also jumped today.”

 

“You what?!” Jinora’s eyes blew wide as she gasped at Korra with an incredulous but eager grin.

 

“I jumped. A lot.” Korra smiled.

 

“Korra that’s amazing!” Her roommate ran forward and throttled her with a hug. “Holy crap that’s so exciting! I’m so proud of you! We should go celebrate! Drinks?!”

 

“Let’s do it!” Korra nodded emphatically and shrugged off her boot bag and ski coat. “I’ll get cleaned up so we can head out. Text Kai!”

 

As she walked to her room, she checked her phone.

 

Kuvira [4:44pm]

When will you start training again?

 

Her heart sank, succumbing to the pressure that settled itself once again on her shoulders. She stopped in her tracks, staring at the message for a long moment, completely at a loss for the words to express how lost she felt again. How could Kuvira make her feel so small so quickly? 

 

This wasn’t fair. She wasn’t having it. Not today. 

 

She typed up a message as fast as she could and hit send before giving herself time to second guess.

 

Korra [4:51pm]

Jinora and I are going to celebrate. Join us?  

 

Korra threw her phone on her bed and hopped in the shower. She ignored the heart-pounding memory of Asami gingerly guiding her hand down onto her hip. She ignored how intensely she’d wanted to pull her closer. She ignored the gravity of those striking green eyes and how they’d brought her the peace she needed to let herself be free again. She ignored it all and instead just let herself hope Asami agreed to come out tonight.

Chapter Text

Korra did her best to muster a smile before Asami came to the door. She didn’t want to sour the afternoon before it even got started. Despite her foul mood, she was eager for her time with Asami, hopeful it could provide the comeback her day so desperately needed. Even something as mundane as studying by her side could set Korra’s emotions at ease. The engineer always managed to draw out Korra’s worries and somehow just erase them, with a smile or a kindhearted cast to her lovely green eyes. She could not imagine anyone ever saying no to her in the business world. 

 

Right on cue, Korra’s grin broadened, instantly genuine, the moment Asami appeared behind the sliding door. 

 

“Hey.” Korra breathed, letting the relief wash over her as Asami smiled her hello.

 

“What’s wrong?” Asami asked, not a second after Korra shuffled inside. Korra froze. Really?

 

Korra stared blankly back, wondering how in the world the woman had sensed her consternation from no more than a word. All at once, the frustration of her day came flooding back, coiling in her chest into an expanding, darkening swirl, demanding release. In the next moment, everything about Asami, her eyebrows wrinkled together in concern, lips pursed in displeasure with whatever had caused Korra’s unease, and eyes softly offering shelter and relief, made Korra want to crumble and crash into her arms. 

 

So she did. 

 

Korra caught a glimpse of Asami’s eyes widening in surprise before she buried her face into the engineer’s shoulder. She wove her arms through Asami’s and pressed clenched fists against her back, pulling herself close. A second later, she felt the pressure of the returned embrace enveloping her as a gentle hand began to rub soothing patterns over her spine. This would feel so much better without a ski coat on. It felt pretty amazing as it was.

 

“Bad day?” Asami’s voice sounded muffled through the warmth and softness protecting her.

 

“Horrible.” She mumbled into the nest of comfort she’d just discovered. When Asami shivered beneath her, Korra realized she’d moved her mouth directly against the bare skin of Asami’s collarbone. Oops. Korra didn’t feel quite as sorry as she probably should. The thought of making Asami shiver like that sent its own jolt of  sensation through Korra’s body. 

 

Before she could be tempted to move her lips again or take another deep breath to indulge in the wondrous scent that threatened to overwhelm her, Korra pulled away, just a bit dazed. When Asami reached past her to close the door and shut out the winter breeze, Korra found herself wondering if it was the cold or her lips that were responsible for the goosebumps that pebbled Asami’s arms and chest. 

 

“What happened today?” Asami asked carefully, keeping her eyes soft and a gentle smile on her lips. Which Korra just happened to have glanced at and noticed they looked enticingly rouged, even without lipstick on. Korra darted her eyes away, acutely aware now of all the places her mind had wandered in the last minute. I need to be careful. “Too many whiny kids?”

 

The joke was like a splash of water to the face. Caught up in the indescribable sensation of being held by Asami and all these details she noticed at once, Korra had all but forgotten about the conversation. She laughed, genuinely amused.

 

“A few.” Korra conceded. The kids had been particularly annoying today. But honestly she couldn’t say if the students had been irritating or if she had been irritable. She thought of her phone call with Kuvira as she shrugged off her ski coat. It had certainly thrown her for a loop that morning… and had more to do with her piss-poor outlook on the day than she cared to admit.

 

“The kids weren't the problem though?” Asami, ever perceptive, caught the trail in Korra’s voice that betrayed there was more to the story. I swear you’re psychic. Ugh, why couldn’t Korra just forget about her crappy day and lose herself in the time she had with this amazing person?

 

“No… they weren’t.” She couldn’t hide anything from those eyes. How she’d gotten to this point was beyond her, but now, so many months into getting to know one another, Korra knew that Asami would get to the bottom of anything and everything that gnawed at her mind. Once she’d stopped resisting, the all-consuming relief of having someone know her and accept her so thoroughly was an absolute wonder. Korra sighed. “Kuvira called this morning.”

 

“Oh.” Asami’s eyes hardened and her lips drew together in a thin line. “What happened?” She said flatly. After telling her so much about the hurdles and challenges of their relationship, Korra supposed it was only natural for Asami to dislike Kuvira so much. Maybe that’s a hint you should pay attention to… That nagging voice in the back of her mind piped up again, filling her with those increasingly frequent doubts about her relationship. 

 

Korra sighed heavily. “She’s coming to visit in March, the weekend after the exam.” It surprised Korra how accustomed she’d gotten to expecting and receiving disappointment from her girlfriend, and how little she could bring herself to care as she shared it with Asami. Even after the argument had effectively ruined her for the day, now that she was here it didn’t seem to matter so much. “Turns out she has to shorten her trip.”

 

“Aw, well that’s a bummer.” Asami sounded almost relieved, like she’d expected much worse. Oh there’s more.

 

“When I told her I was bummed because I had wanted time to celebrate with her after the Level 3 exam, she flipped.”

 

“Flipped? About what?” Now the engineer looked genuinely confused.

 

“The exam.”

 

“What about it?” Asami’s voice shifted from nonplussed to threatening in an instant, like she was riding a thin line between incredulity and rage.

 

“She said I was wasting my time with it. That I should focus on getting back into training.” Asami’s eyes went wide as she toppled over the edge into anger. Korra sighed heavily, shocked in part by how calmly apathetic she felt about all this. “She said I should get over myself and stop holding myself back.”

 

Korra watched Asami’s expression carefully, seeing ire flare in her eyes before it was replaced with a slow, burning irritation that Korra recognized by now as Asami’s controlled protectiveness of her feelings. She could tell Asami was holding back. What, she didn’t know. 

 

“What do you think, Korra? Do you think you’re wasting your time?” Asami said after a few moments of gathering herself. Of course, Asami’s question was the correct, most pointed one she could ask.

 

“No.” Korra said immediately. Because I get to spend time with you. She knew the truth of the thought. It wasn’t a new idea, nor a forbidden one. Korra had accepted weeks ago how much she loved her time with Asami, when she’d realized that their easygoing and heartfelt openness made her feel genuine, unfiltered happiness. She didn’t shy away from admitting to herself that her friend made her happy. There was nothing inherently wrong about that.

 

What was new was the desire to say the thought out loud. And reach for Asami’s hand. And step closer to her until she could feel Asami’s breaths tickle her nose and smell her wondrous shampoo again. Those ideas she pushed out of her mind, along with the lump that had formed in her throat while imagining them. When she continued, she only revealed the acceptable reasons for dedicating her time to this exam. “I want to achieve that milestone. It’s a bit of an end goal as an instructor to get to Level 3 and I want it.” She scoffed. “Maybe I’ll even let myself go to New Zealand if I pass.”

 

“If it’s what you want, then Kuvira has no place telling you not to go after it.” That fire blazed again in Asami’s eyes and Korra wondered at the woman’s ability to speak so calmly and succinctly while her expression betrayed so much more.

 

“I know.” Korra couldn’t help herself. She wanted to know what else lay behind the fierceness in those eyes. “... And?”

 

Asami, her fiery gaze shaken, blinked back at Korra bewildered. “And what?”

 

“It looks like you have a lot more to say….” Korra made eye contact and held it, hoping it would be enough to draw out whatever Asami kept locked away.

 

“I…” Asami looked down, hesitating, and Korra frowned. “I don’t think it’s my place.” 

 

“I want to hear it.” Korra did take a step closer this time. She ducked her head to catch Asami’s eyes again and saw the inner struggle written across her wrinkled brow. “Considering you’re the only person I feel like I can talk to about all this, it’s only fair if you can tell me what you’re thinking. Please.”

 

Asami’s eyebrows twitched once before she raised her chin and looked Korra firmly in the eyes. “Okay.” She took a deep breath, steeling herself for whatever she was about to deliver. “I think Kuvira is being manipulative. She’s using your insecurities to make you do what she wants. A good partner would be supportive of your goals, but all she seems to want is for you to fit into her ideal of who you are and behave however is most convenient for her. She’s not being a good partner to you Korra. And if she can’t get her shit together…” Asami’s jaw tightened, her unease evident in the way she averted her eyes. “I think you deserve better.” 

 

Korra didn’t gasp or step back or feel surprised in the least. She simply cast her eyes downward and sighed. She’d be lying if she said the thought hadn’t crossed her mind. Truth was, she’d been hoping Kuvira would ‘get her shit together’ for much longer than she cared to admit. And for Asami to lay it out so bluntly was… validating. And terrifying. The thought of terminating that phase of her life seemed insurmountable. It struck her bitterly that she didn’t shy from the idea itself, but rather how hard it would be to get through the change. Maybe she’s right. Korra stared at her feet, suddenly overwhelmed by the vastness of the world outside her relationship. 

 

Asami saw her withdrawing and tugged her back, extending a hand and grasping Korra’s forearm gently. “Hey. Everything I said… It’s just an opinion, from the outside looking in. I know I don’t have all the facts. It really wasn’t my place. I’m sorry.”

 

“Don’t apologize, ‘Sami.” Korra whispered to her feet. “I’m okay. It’s okay, what you said. I just… I’m really scared you might be right.” She looked up then, searching for comfort and finding it the moment her eyes met Asami’s, a little stunned but still soft and sympathetic and, god help me, loving.

 

“Don’t be scared. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s over, Korra.” Asami squeezed Korra’s arm. “If you think I’m right, it just means that you know what to ask for from Kuvira to get things back on track.”

 

What if I don’t want to get things back on track? The thought and its immediacy shook Korra to her core and she shuddered, head and heart overloaded by the weight of these feelings and what they might mean. All she could do was nod at Asami. Words failed her as her mind plunged into depths of doubts she’d never expected to explore.

 

Korra must have blacked out for a moment, because the next thing she knew, her arm was being guided around Asami’s waist while a tender hand pulled her head down to rest on Asami’s shoulder. The soothing scent of Asami’s hair filled Korra’s lungs as kind, protective arms slid over her and held her in the most reassuring embrace she could ever remember knowing. This feels way too good. Korra released a shaky breath and with it, the burning doubts and questions that clawed at her lungs. She inhaled the warm comfort and peacefulness offered by the person surrounding her. 

 

“It’s going to be okay. You guys will figure it out.” Asami whispered placatingly. She ran a hand gingerly over Korra’s hair as she spoke and Korra’s immediate thought was that if she could stay like this indefinitely, then yes, absolutely, all the answers would come to her eventually.

 

First I have to figure out if I want us to figure it out… Now that the doubt was out there, now that Korra had named it, she couldn’t get it out of her head. 

 

“I don’t know…” Korra mumbled against Asami and screwed her eyes shut at the second half of the statement. I don’t know what I want anymore. She refused to give it life by saying it out loud. 

 

“There’s always a way, Korra. You’ll be alright.” Asami’s arms squeezed a little tighter and Korra sighed into her, noticing again how her exhale elicited a small shiver from the engineer. Her own inner turmoil wasn’t enough to suppress the thrill that shot through her at the knowledge that Asami’s body reacted to her that way. No. That is extra unproductive.  

 

Asami released her, probably for the best, and held Korra’s shoulders as she stepped back. Her eyes held nothing but kindness and care and, just from that look, Korra could tell how much Asami wanted to fix everything for her. Why do you care so much? I don’t deserve this.

 

“Why don’t we skip studying today?” The engineer suggested.

 

“Why?” Korra's voice sounded a lot smaller than she'd expected.

 

“So we can have some fun. Make your day better.” Asami smiled softly and Korra found herself mirroring the expression.

 

“But we only have a few hours and then Kai & Jinora will be here for movie night. We should study.”

 

“Korra, it’s Friday. Since when are you such a model of discipline?” Asami wrinkled her face into  a teasing pout and Korra couldn’t help the laugh that escaped her.

 

“Since when are you the irresponsible one?” She retorted.

 

“Since you’ve had a rough day and I intend to fix it.” Asami stated, dead serious. Then, more playfully, “And since I’m an adult, and it’s Friday night, and I do what I want.”

 

“Ha!” Korra yielded as she laughed. “Okay, if you insist. What do you have in mind?”

 

“Um… weed and bad movies?” The CEO suggested, raising her eyebrows.

 

Korra grinned. She’d partaken quite a few times in the last several months with Asami, Kai, and Jinora. She would be the first to admit that a light high was an extremely pleasant way to release some tension. Not to mention she loved the idea of the high-powered CEO giggling uncontrollably at Korra’s merest provocation; it absolutely delighted her to see Asami so free. After the day she’d had and the build up of soreness from a week of picking up little kids with heavy ski boots, she could use the relaxation.

 

“I’m in.” Korra narrowed her eyes. “But I’m not in the mood for bad movies.”

 

“What are you thinking instead?” 

 

“Something more… wholesome.” Korra grinned at Asami’s questioning look. “I want to watch Johnny Tsunami!” She declared with the biggest smile she could muster.

 

“Johnny what?” Asami looked completely lost.

 

“Asami!” She cried out in feigned offense. “How could you not know about Johnny Tsunami?!” 

 

“... is it a Disney channel movie?” The engineer asked with a chuckle. 

 

Korra grinned wide and put her hands on her hips. “You know it.” 

 

“I thought you said you weren't in the mood for bad movies?” Asami quipped and Korra gasped, taken aback by the utter blasphemy.

 

“How could you say something so horrible, Asami?”

 

Asami rolled her eyes dramatically but nodded. “Okay, fine. But only because you’re having a bad day… and if we’re done early, I get to pick the next one.”

 

“Works for me.” Korra conceded with a lopsided smile. She peeled off the rest of her outer layers and padded into the kitchen to gather supplies: lots of water and snacks. Asami, equally familiar with the drill, prepared the living room. She quietly laid two blankets on the couch before setting out the jar of edibles from the local dispensary.

 

A gummy candy, many jokes, and thirty minutes later, Korra let her head fall back softly against the couch, feeling completely at ease for the first time all day. The blanket cocooned her in warmth, the cannabis slowed her thoughts to a manageable pace, and the familiar lines from an oft-watched film drowned out all other distractions. She sighed happily and turned her head to check on Asami who, after incessantly making fun of Korra and her affinity for cheesy children’s movies, was now leaning forward on the other side of the sofa, utterly transfixed by the television. 

 

Korra smiled fondly at her companion, thoroughly enchanted by those warm green eyes twinkling with reflected light and the faint smile tugging upwards at the corners of her lips. You’re beautiful. The thought waltzed into her brain effortlessly, with absolute and undeniable clarity. She watched Asami gasp at something overly-dramaticized and found herself grinning wider. And you’re sweet. The pot had certainly turned off some of the internal filters that should have stopped her brain from tumbling down this rabbit hole. 

 

Asami turned to her, incredulous at whatever had just occurred on-screen, to see if Korra felt the same way. So gorgeous. Korra just smiled back languidly without pausing her appreciation of Asami’s captivating presence and the fluttering it stirred in her. I’m so happy when I’m around you. Why can’t I be with someone like you?

 

**

 

Korra eyed her entirely too dreamily for her liking. Or, rather, Asami cherished the dreamy way Korra eyed her entirely too much for her own wellbeing. Therein lies the problem. Whenever Korra looked at her like that—like she was the only person in her world—Asami could barely cling to self-control.

 

Korra was in a relationship. She often confided in Asami about said relationship, much to Asami’s frustration. Oddly, Asami took less issue with providing advice than she did with all the ways that Kuvira underestimated, under appreciated, and mistreated the beautiful woman she had the privilege to be with. 

 

So, it tore Asami apart when Korra’s eyes came alive for her this way. She recognized happiness when she saw it directed at her, blossoming because of her. And she knew—she just knew—that Kuvira hadn’t made Korra look or feel like that in a long time. It killed Asami to know she could make Korra happy, to want to make her happy, and to know Korra couldn’t, or wouldn’t, choose her.

 

When those ocean blue eyes filled with this… fondness, Asami saw all the things she knew she could give. And god it was hard not to just reach out and do it. Alone in a fancy house in the middle of a snowy mountainside? Yeah, it’d be a pretty perfect place to make a move. 

 

She couldn’t, though. 

 

Korra was too good to live with herself if anything happened between them. Hell, no matter how earth-shattering a kiss would be—and Asami just knew it would—Korra would guilt herself straight back into Kuvira’s arms for having cheated, keeping Korra unhappy, Kuvira in control, and Asami alone. And honestly, could Asami live with herself being the ‘other woman’ given her own relationship history?

 

No. Asami focused on the certain agony that awaited her if she gave in to that inviting gaze. She clung to every ounce of distress she knew would wind up on her shoulders. And once the weight of the potential suffering set in, she was able to stop the slow, involuntary lean of her face towards Korra’s. Don’t do anything stupid.

 

She blinked herself out of the trance, hoping Korra hadn’t noticed her movement.

 

Asami almost fell prey to another lapse in self-control as Korra hummed softly and closed her eyes in what appeared to be utter bliss. “Mmm, what do you want ‘Sami?”

 

What?! Asami panicked. Had Korra noticed? But Korra just turned to look at her with a lazy, blithe smile, patiently expectant and betraying no sign of uneasiness. Asami thought it best to clarify. “What do you mean?”

 

“Like… if you could have anything in the world you wanted…” Korra drawled. “What would it be?”

 

You.

 

“Um… Right now?” Asami chose a safer answer. “Water.”

 

Korra didn’t miss a beat. She was still laughing when she sat back down on the couch, handing Asami a full glass of water. “You can’t expect me to believe that what you want most in the world is something I can give you in a second.” Oh you’d be surprised. “So tell me. What do you want?”

 

Asami felt trapped. The answer roaring in her brain— I want you, you you you! —was absolutely unacceptable. Yet she knew that if she lied, something in her expression would betray her. Korra saw she’d been holding back earlier and, despite the cover of inebriation, Asami didn’t think she could get away with hiding anything from her friend. Better to stick to the truth. Time to get creative.

 

“I have almost everything I want right now. Now that you brought me water, of course.” She held up her cup as a thank you and sipped. Water was indeed a miracle on earth. “What about you Korra? If you could have anything in the world you wanted, what would it be?” And now deflect.

 

Korra pouted and wrinkled her eyebrows. After a moment, she answered. “If you’d asked me that a week ago… I’d have said I wanted the courage to jump again.” She smiled a big, innocent, satisfied smile. “It feels so good not to want that anymore.”

 

Asami returned the grin, remembering their day on the mountain and Korra’s uncontainable excitement at having reclaimed such an important piece of herself. “And now?”

 

Korra sighed and her expression saddened. “I want… a girlfriend I can talk to. Who… lets me be who I am. And who isn’t afraid of letting me chase who I want to be… whatever that is.”

 

Asami caught Korra’s eyes and felt her heart stop beating properly as the blue glistened at her pointedly, intentionally, before turning away. What the hell was that? Before Asami could register what that might have meant, Korra kept speaking.

 

“It sounds kind of petty compared to wanting to rebuild after the accident but… that’s what’s been on my mind lately. Quite a lot, actually.”

 

Those eyes hit her again, dark blue in the dim lighting, boring into her expectantly, quietly hinting at a message. They lingered on Asami’s, which had certainly widened in their frantic search for understanding, for a long moment before Korra flicked them away. Fuck, Korra you need to stop doing this to me. 

 

Asami chose to address Korra’s words and leave aside whatever unspoken meaning Korra imbued into her long glances. 

 

“That’s not too much to want, Korra. It’s not petty, or small, or even too much to ask for in a partner. It’s fair and you absolutely deserve it. You’re kind and honest and you have such a wonderful heart. At the minimum you deserve someone who talks and listens to you.” She paused, debating if her next words might be too much, but they tumbled out before she’d had time to decide. “If it were up to me, you’d have someone who appreciates you for how sweet, strong, caring, and determined you are. Someone who doesn’t force you to second guess yourself. You’re amazing.” 

 

If it were up to me, I’d give you the world. She almost said it. Honestly, the sappiness of the phrase stopped her before her judgement did. Good thing, too, because once she’d stopped talking she noticed she’d started leaning in again. Ugh. She had enough wherewithal to disguise the movement by placing an encouraging hand on Korra’s knee. You need to get a hold of yourself, Sato.

 

Now, those blue eyes had softened and held Asami’s gaze with gratitude and hopefulness and a hint of sorrow that twisted Asami’s stomach. Back off. Now. “I hope you and Kuvira can figure things out. You deserve to be happy.” Asami averted her eyes, determined to avoid the disappointment that threatened at the edges of Korra’s expression.

 

From beside her, Korra’s voice seemed smaller when she finally spoke up. “I don’t believe what you said before, about you having everything you want.” Damnit Korra.

 

“Why?”

 

“Because…” In her peripheral vision she saw Korra turn to her. “You didn’t sound like someone who has everything they want.”

 

“Hey. I said almost everything.” Asami tried to tease her way out of the conversation but Korra was having none of it.

 

“Same difference. You sounded sad . And someone who has what they want should be happy. You deserve to be happy, too. So I’m still wondering, what would make you happy?”

 

You. 

 

Asami sighed and leaned back against the sofa. Tilting her head up, she cast her eyes over the ceiling and thought. This answer couldn’t be all about Korra, as much as her yearning overwhelmed her at the moment. So what would make Asami Sato, the woman who had almost everything, happy?

 

“I… think I want to feel like I belong where I am.” She furrowed her brow and considered her words, feeling more sure of them as she elaborated. “Everything has felt so… temporary lately. Business school, my job, Whistler… even grief. Everything that consumes all my time and energy is so transient, like everything is just something I’m getting through. But there’s no promise or idea of what comes once I do ‘get through it.’”

 

Asami turned her head, at last sufficiently distracted by other emotions to be able to face Korra. Korra listened intently. “I recognize the futility of wanting to know what’s coming. But I don’t want to know the future. I think I just want a little… permanence. Not with everything. God that would be so boring. But with something. Or someone. Whichever, really.”

 

“Permanence?” Korra asked weakly.

 

“Yeah.” The CEO let out a long breath. “The kind of permanence you get from family.”

 

“Family?” Now Korra sounded cautious, like she was afraid she’d hurt Asami with every word.

 

Asami turned and saw Korra’s concerned expression. Oh gosh. She tried to relieve the tension a bit. “Not necessarily like ‘a wife, dog, and three kids’ kind of family.” She chuckled. That was the first time her idea of family life had included a wife. Interesting. “Not that I would be opposed to that. I just meant… ‘family’ like people that are always going to be a part of you, no matter what else changes in life.”

 

Korra nodded, still looking pained on Asami’s behalf and Asami let herself continue rambling. “Family can come from many places. My ‘traditional’ family is… not with me anymore. But family can come from friends, it can come from a significant other or spouse, in some strange way it can even come from a workplace that values you and looks out for you.”

 

“I think I get it….” Korra muttered.

 

“I want to have people or something that, whenever I’m around them, make me feel like I’m home.” Asami thought that was a pretty good summary. 

 

“Yes. I totally understand that.”

 

“And, the permanence part of it… well I think what would make me happy, or bring me peace, would be to know that that feeling of home belongs to me. And isn’t going away.”

 

Asami released a heavy breath. Where had all that come from? She found it resonating too deeply to be a new feeling. I should probably tell my therapist about this.  

 

For several minutes, Asami swam in the depths of the realization and all the different ways it applied to her life. Bolin, Opal, and Mako’s fierce friendship and how much she wished to rebuild that connection after having severed it with Mako a second time. They were the closest thing to family she had left. Her job as CEO, and how she’d grown up feeling destined to lovingly take over Future Industries when the time came. But, having been thrust into the position too soon, she was faced with losing that dream for her lack of experience and preparation. Whistler, and how she’d carved out a life for herself here that she’d have to leave behind eventually. And, not least, Korra. Who so quickly worked her way into Asami’s every day and more recently, into her heart. Korra, with whom Asami felt more at home and alive than she had in ages. Korra, who she could not let herself fall for.

 

Asami screwed her eyes shut and her next exhale came out shakier than she wanted. The couch cushions moved beside her and she heard the rustle of fabric on fabric as Korra scooted closer. Asami held still, laid back against the couch, eyes still fixated on the ceiling. She would not let herself be drawn in again. 

 

Korra settled beside her, letting their legs and shoulders press together. Not a cuddle, just… sitting. She felt Korra slouch, slide a few inches down, and then lean her head on Asami’s shoulder. How are you so warm? Korra radiated heat and it pulsed through Asami’s clothes where their sides touched. 

 

“There’s a lot I want to say.” Korra whispered after a few long seconds.

 

“About what?” Asami mirrored the hushed tone.

 

“About…” Korra’s jaw tensed against Asami’s shoulder. “... about family. And home. And about not going away.”

 

“Okay…” Asami tried to read into what Korra said but could barely think with the woman so close to her, wearing nothing but the skintight base layer that kept her warm beneath her ski clothes. “You can say anything to me, you know that right?” 

 

“I know.” Korra’s strained voice suggested the exact opposite. “But…” she sighed and wiggled herself closer to Asami somehow, increasing the pressure between them. “... this is better.” 

 

“I—okay.” Asami sighed, resigned. It did not seem like Korra would elaborate. So now what? As much as she wanted to lean her own head down and rest it atop Korra’s, Asami felt that was out of the question. Too close. Even this, just sitting next to each other, hands to themselves, but sides glued together felt… heavy. Laden with something unspoken that, until now, Asami had convinced herself was one-sided.

 

No. Do not go there. No amount of potential consequence would stop her if she let herself conclude that Korra reciprocated any of her feelings. Even stripped from the emotional connection, her desire for the woman was enough to leave her brain struggling to function. If she sniffed out even an ounce of mutual interest, she could almost guarantee she’d make a series of extremely inappropriate decisions. So no, she wouldn’t let this mean anything. Korra was a good friend. Providing support and comfort after a solemn discussion. That’s all.

 

Asami tried to focus on the movie and was about to succeed when Korra spoke up again. “Did Mako give you that?”

 

“Give me what?”

 

“That feeling you talked about. Home. Family. Permanence.”

 

“No.” Asami surprised herself with how rapidly she felt the answer. “He was… safe. A friend before we took it a step further. But he never made me feel that sense of belonging.” She scoffed at herself. “I’m being ridiculous. Talking like I’ve felt anything like that before. I haven’t, to tell you the truth. But I guess I figured I’d know it when I saw it.” Asami exhaled. “Bottom line, Mako didn’t give me what I think it should feel like.”

 

“It's not ridiculous.” Korra responded. “When you know, you know.”

 

Asami wanted to ask. Do you know with Kuvira? Oh, how she wanted to ask. But she couldn’t honestly say she wanted to know the answer. It would feel worse no matter which way it went. Korra continued, though, and without asking, Asami got hold of the information she knew would tear her apart.

 

“At least that’s what I’ve heard, anyway.”  

 

Aw geez. Well. The relief was nice. But knowing that Korra didn’t think Kuvira was it? That was a stab in the heart just as much as a wave of hope. Korra might not consider Kuvira to be the ideal that Asami described, but they were still together. Still committed to each other and the five years of history between them. And Korra was still off limits. Again, Asami choked off her emotions to prevent herself from reaching out and taking what she wanted so much now that it hurt.

 

“Why did you stay with Mako if he wasn’t… you know?” Korra evidently wanted to keep talking. Hopefully that could distract Asami enough to keep her sane.

 

“If he wasn’t it?” 

 

“Yeah. What made you stay?”

 

Not a bad question. “Well, like I said, he made me feel safe. Except for the cheating bit, but once we’d become friends again, that safety came back.”

 

“That’s it?”

 

“Um… I guess things were easy with him too.”

 

“Easy?”

 

“Yeah. But… sort of in a lazy way. Like we already knew each other and we had the same friends and it required no effort on either of our parts to keep a relationship plugging along.” 

 

There was a different kind of easy. A good kind, exciting. The kind that came with effortless conversation and an insurmountable desire to spend time together. Not easy because it took zero effort to be together, but easy because there was no question that the work would be worth it. Not easy because the person already knew your quirks and oddities, but easy because you knew the person would love each one they discovered. Asami had only recently experienced the difference.

 

“So, bad easy?” Korra clarified from her place on Asami’s shoulder.

 

“In a way, yes.” Asami didn’t want this conversation to take the path she felt them angling towards. The path that might lead them to talking about Korra and Kuvira with these same words. Let’s lighten this up, shall we? “And, of course, consistent sex is always nice.”

 

Korra’s head came up and she blinked at Asami a few times before laughing. “That good, huh?” 

 

“The sex?” Asami chuckled. “I mean, nothing mind-blowing. Not the best of my life. But decent, yeah. And…”

 

“Easy?” Korra offered with a smirk. They both burst out laughing. Poor Mako.

 

“So what was the best sex of your life then?” Korra followed up after the giggles died down.

 

This was fine. This conversation Asami could have at arm’s length. She pretended to think for a second. “In college, after a rugby match. She played for the other team and after the game, during the social, we snuck off to my room. Her teammates came knocking to find her a few hours later.”

 

“Wait hang on. You’re telling me the best sex of your life was with a woman?”

 

“Definitely.” Asami laughed. “Why? You surprised?”

 

“Honestly? A little. I had my suspicions, but I guess when we talked about Mako I just sort of assumed…”

 

Asami’s eyebrows nearly reached her hairline. Is that so? Even after you looked at me like that? She shrugged and winked. “Your suspicions were right. I’m as bi as they come.” 

 

“Hm.” Korra glanced down at her lap, seeming troubled for a moment before looking back up. She scooted back and pulled her legs underneath her, turning on the couch to face Asami directly with an eager sparkle in her eyes. “So tell me about this best sex mystery woman. Did you ever see her again? Did you date? What made the sex so good?”

 

Korra looked so playful and excited, Asami couldn’t help but laugh aloud. “It was a one-time thing.”

 

“Oh?” Korra’s eyebrows shot up. “Didn’t peg you for the one night stand type.”

 

“Just because I’m a generally responsible person doesn’t absolve me of all propensity to make rash decisions.” Asami wiggled her eyebrows. “I’m full of surprises.”

 

Korra chuckled and nodded. “Okay that’s fair.” She leaned her head forward and rested her chin in her hands, eyes twinkling with curiosity. “Please, continue. I’m dying to know more.”

 

“Haha okay, well there isn’t much to hear. We hooked up that one time and that was it.”

 

“But what made it the best sex of your life?? It clearly wasn’t just some hook-up!” Korra prodded shamelessly. 

 

“I think it was a mix of things. She was… beautiful. And I was stupidly attracted to her. Almost instantly.” Korra nodded along emphatically, egging Asami on. “I had broken up with Mako a few months prior, so it had been a while since the last time. That always… enhances things.” ‘Definitely,’ the slow bob of Korra’s head seemed to say. “And… I’d never been with a woman before.”

 

“No way.” Korra sat up and shook her head. “Your first time with a woman was your best ever?” 

 

“Wasn’t it that way for you?” Asami countered. “I feel like the realization and the excitement of finally giving in to all those questions added a lot to the experience.”

 

“Hm… I’ll admit it made things more exciting.” Korra looked up, pondering. “I mean, my first time with a woman was definitely memorable. But it was also my first time, period. I’m a gold star.” She grinned proudly and Asami cackled.

 

“Well that makes sense then. You didn’t have the other version to compare against… and you probably had no clue what was going on.” Asami teased between giggles.

 

“Hey!” Korra scowled. “It wasn’t bad! Pretty great actually, if I’m to believe what I was told.”

 

“Oh I see, you got good feedback I take it?” She kept prodding, relentless.

 

“Mhm, I sure did.” Korra smirked. “Again and again and again.” She gave Asami a very suggestive, very confident, and irritatingly sexy smile. “Oh, and I think at least one more time after that.” 

 

The smug grin, combined with the heavy-handed implication of Korra’s ability to deliver in multiples, caused unwanted stirrings beneath Asami’s stomach. Damnit Korra. She feigned laughter to give herself a minute to control her breathing. After the heat in her low belly cooled to a steady burn from the spike of desire that seared through her before, she could finally talk. “So, ‘pretty great’ but not your best?” 

 

“It got better after that.” Korra just kept on grinning. Rude. “What about you? The sex didn’t get better after the first time or have you just not been with a woman since?” The smugness in that question begged for Asami to clap back.

 

“Oh don’t you worry your pretty little head. I’ve been with plenty of women since.”

 

“And?” 

 

Now it was Asami’s turn to make Korra squirm. “And it was always good. I guess if you’re exclusively counting orgasms I’m sure one could argue later sex was better. But that first time had this franticness about it… we were insatiable. That’s what made it so memorable.” 

 

Asami let her voice drop, halfway between nostalgic and seductive. “We’d been watching each other all morning on the pitch and the sidelines. The attraction just built up and up and up until we couldn’t take it anymore. Until we had to have each other. When we were finally alone, the release was… oh my god.” She breathed out the last three words quietly, her voice bordering on a moan. Asami watched Korra gulp and saw her pupils shrink to pinpricks as her eyes stayed wide. 

 

Asami smirked. She wasn’t finished. “I had never felt such pure, unadulterated want before. I could barely see straight. I’d had sex before, so it wasn’t like I didn’t know what to do. I just got to focus on discovering all the different wonderful ways my body responded to a woman; ways I had never thought possible. It was eye-opening. And really good. I think the entire party heard what we were up to.” Asami chuckled, letting her voice return to its normal timbre, and swooped her hair over her shoulder. “That’s how I remember it anyway.”

 

**

 

Korra blinked at Asami. Too many times. Her mouth was dry and all the fluid in her body felt like it had migrated south and concentrated in a swirl between her legs. She didn’t miss Asami’s smug smirk or the way the woman had changed the tone of her voice to render her story even more provocative than it already was. Korra was not immune, regardless of the obvious intent. 

 

“Geez Asami. That story makes me want to crawl back into the closet so I can come out again just like you did. Because apparently I did it wrong. Damn.” No use pretending the story wasn’t hot as hell. Korra shook herself visibly and Asami laughed brightly, evidently pleased with the reaction she’d elicited.

 

Now how the hell was Korra supposed to forget the image of a panting, groaning Asami pressed up against the wall of a dorm room? Or how to stop wondering what she sounded like as she came? We can’t talk about sex anymore.

 

“What about you Korra? What was your ‘best?’” Apparently Asami didn’t want to change the subject. Okay. 

 

“Um…” Korra thought back to a particularly memorable moment. “Right after I made it into halfpipe finals at the Games.”

 

“Celebration sex? Nice.”

 

“Haha yeah, something like that.”

 

“Why the best?” Asami just kept on prying. Ugh. The last thing Korra wanted to think about right now was Kuvira. But she knew the answer and there wasn’t any way to avoid it.

 

“I think it was how I felt. I had been trailing behind, but my last run was perfect. I landed a movement I’d only had a 30% success rate with in practice and it launched me to the top of the leaderboard. The rush was… like nothing I’d ever felt before. I felt so powerful, so in control.” Korra smiled at the memory. “I didn’t even think; I went straight to the trainer’s tent and fucked Kuvira right there.”

 

Korra watched Asami’s reaction carefully. She could tell the name had an effect, as her eyes darted sideways before returning to Korra’s. But she also noticed how Asami’s chest heaved just a bit and how she licked her lips once at the word ‘fucked.’ Guess you’re not immune either.

 

“W-was there anyone else there?” Asami’s voice sounded rather shaky and it brought Korra immense satisfaction. This is a dangerous game.

 

“Yep. I took her to one of the treatment tables in the tent and pulled the curtain. Had to keep quiet because of the live TV cameras camped outside and the other athletes prepping to compete.”

 

Asami’s eyes went wide and Korra smirked. “Nothing a little hand over the mouth couldn’t handle.”

 

Korra thought she was winning until Asami shifted. Not towards Korra or anything overt like that. She simply adjusted herself in her seat. But in doing so, Korra noticed how she ever so slightly rocked her hips to press herself against the couch for a second. Oh no. Korra’s heart rate spiked and she hated that her eyes flew straight to Asami’s hips and refused to leave them, no matter how hard she tried. Asami was bound to notice. 

 

Asami’s hips rocked again, rotating her pelvis against the couch cushion. Mmmfuck. Was that on purpose? Do it again.  

 

What the hell, no! Do not do it again. Korra, battling with herself, managed to tear her eyes away from Asami’s lower half and its now tantalizing contact with the couch. 

 

When she met Asami’s gaze, feeling panicked and entirely too out of breath for their current situation, Asami regarded her with utmost innocence, lifting an eyebrow to ask what was wrong. Too innocent. Asami held eye contact and moved again. Without staring at her thighs, Korra couldn’t be sure if she was seeking pressure against the couch, but considering the smug challenge that twinkled in Asami’s piercing green eyes, Korra had a pretty good idea. Oh god.

 

Korra was frozen in place, warring with herself as part of her ached to reach forward and grip those hips, forcing them to ride that unspoken desire until it burst into loud, panting pleasure. Another part of her wanted to say something unbelievably erotic, to make it harder for Asami to sit there looking so self-satisfied and smug. And somewhere, sanity told Korra to say nothing at all or, better yet, change the subject so she didn’t do something stupid. 

 

It occurred to her that if she kept staring this way, wide-eyed and gaping, that she might be encouraging Asami without action. That made it worse when she realized that’s exactly what she wanted. To encourage Asami. To let her know exactly how much she wanted her just by looking. To watch her as she worked herself against the couch and— No! Stop!  

 

Unghhhh. Her brain and body warred against each other and the struggle must have been evident in her face, because Asami took pity on her and stood up. “I need more water. Want some?”

 

“Please.” Korra answered through the desert in her mouth, voice wound as tight as her senses. While Asami went to the kitchen, Korra moved to sit facing the TV. She noticed the wetness between her thighs and how, if she wanted, she could find her own measure of relief against the cushion beneath her. And yet another bad idea sprung into her head. Stop this now.

 

Korra focused on reaching for the remote and finding another movie, something more compelling than Johnny friggin Tsunami, and with zero sex appeal whatsoever. What was that rugby movie Asami had been begging everyone to watch? Korra clicked over to Invictus and read the description. Rugby and apartheid? That fit the bill.

 

Asami squealed in delight when she saw the title queued up on the screen and plopped down onto the couch with water and more snacks. Besides a slight flush on her cheeks that Korra had just noticed, she showed no sign of ever having been seconds away from… whatever that had almost turned into.

 

Korra sighed as she pressed play, hoping Kai and Jinora would arrive soon with Naga. The more buffers the better. She’d come here to study. Instead, she wound up seeking solace from Asami for her relationship issues. And now Korra found herself in even more trouble, forced to acknowledge the smoldering attraction she’d denied herself for a long time. She and Kuvira needed to have a talk when she came to town.

Chapter Text

Korra’s fingers zipped over her screen, making all manner of typos in her jittery excitement. Thank you, autocorrect.

 

Korra [5:51pm]

Guys! I passed!

 

The congratulatory buzzes followed momentarily. An exclamation in all caps from Kai, a kind and heartfelt confidence booster from Jinora, and a string of emojis from Asami. Korra laughed at the last message. Who would have thought that the CEO of Future Industries oftentimes preferred to communicate in emoticons over prose? 

 

She scrolled to Kuvira's name next.

 

Korra [5:54pm]

Babe, I did it! Passed the L3 exam. Your girlfriend is officially a certified badass.

 

She hit send before letting herself overthink her enthusiasm. 

 

Kuvira [5:55pm]

Congratulations

 

Korra [5:55pm]

We’ll celebrate together this weekend!

 

She didn’t wait for an answer; she’d learned to expect little from Kuvira by way of phone lately. Instead, she tapped back to the now blown up group thread.

 

In the last ninety seconds, her friends had decided, organized, and confirmed dinner and drinks for tonight at one of Korra’s favorite bars. I love these people. She grinned down at her screen and responded with her confirmation.

 

A few hours later she stepped eagerly into Asami’s embrace. She’d greeted Kai and Jinora with loud, squishy hugs but Asami felt… delicate. Slow, deliberate and meaningful. They separated quickly; the long hug Korra felt herself wanting was probably inexcusable in this situation, and Asami gently gripped Korra’s shoulders as she stepped back. She held her in place for a second, green eyes shimmering with pride and affection. “You did it, Korra.” Asami smiled, a flawless private smile just for her, and Korra swooned .

 

Sober Korra remembered the night they’d talked a bit too eagerly about their sex lives and almost… whatever. Sober Korra knew she needed to have a serious conversation with Kuvira about their relationship and what she wanted. Sober Korra had prioritized that crucial discussion and her L3 exam over any feelings stirring within her. Sober Korra was much better at suppressing her emotions. Until Asami looked at her like that.

 

She fought down the swell in her chest. “Not least because of you!” She responded, increasing her volume just a bit, trying to steer the moment away from intimacy. “Without our lessons and you as study buddy, I don’t think I would’ve made it. Thank you.”

 

Kai beamed at them and slapped Korra’s shoulder, inadvertently brushing off one of Asami’s hands. The other followed a moment after. “So does this mean Asami owes Korra a drink? Or Korra owes Asami a drink? Hm?” He wiggled his eyebrows and chuckled at his own joke, glancing between the two of them as they turned to him and laughed.

 

Asami, her voice and laugh utter perfection, responded with a wink. “Let’s get her drunk first and then she’ll buy us all the drinks we want.”

 

Kai guffawed, Jinora snorted, and Korra pouted. “Hey! That’s not fair! You can’t prey on my generosity like that!”

 

The group broke into laughter and overwhelmed Korra with joy as three pairs of hands pulled and pushed her in the direction of their table.

 

Not two drinks in, Kai asked the dreaded question. “So, any big plans for this weekend with Kuvira?”

 

Korra took a lingering sip of her cocktail, darting her eyes rapidly to Asami and back. Don’t look at her. This isn’t about her. “Nothing big. She isn’t staying very long. Had to change her flight to head out a few days early.” 

 

“Well that’s a bummer.” Kai made things so black and white sometimes. It should’ve been that simple, honestly. She should have been plainly disappointed that Kuvira couldn’t stay and still eagerly excited at the prospect of their time together. But everything was jumbled now. “When does she get here?”

 

“I pick her up in Vancouver on Saturday and she leaves on Tuesday morning.” Korra tried to sound chipper but the emotion felt hollow in her voice.

 

Asami, infallibly perceptive, waited just long enough to introduce a graceful change in topic and relieve Korra’s unease. “So, Korra. How does the Level 3 certification affect your job at the ski school?” You are an angel.

 

Korra grinned first at Asami and then around the table, shrugging lightly. “Not sure if they’ll want me to change my lessons or if I will get to continue teaching the little ones. They offered me more hours to help coach newer instructors which should be fun. I think they want to encourage me to get my Training certification next. But most importantly?” Her grin widened. “I get a raise.”

 

“I’ll drink to that!” Kai boomed and lifted his glass. The three women cheered and met him over the center of the table with their drinks.

 

“What are you going to do with all this free time you have now?” Jinora said, setting down her beverage.

 

“Umm… I hadn’t really thought about it.” Korra replied honestly. She’d expressly ignored the inevitable reality of not spending afternoons with Asami anymore. “I dunno, I’ll probably cook for myself and hit the gym more. Drink less.” She rattled off a few more cliché resolutions to the amusement of the table. “I’ll get to it all eventually. But I think right now, the first thing I want to do is blow off some steam. Go out and get hammered and stop thinking so much. My brain is tired. Skiing is hard.” She feigned a whine and everyone laughed.

 

“You know, if you’re headed to Vancouver this weekend, it’s an ideal place to find a party.” Asami offered casually.

 

“Oh hell yeah it is!” Kai agreed vehemently. “Much more unz unz unz than we can find round here.” He made wildly inaccurate electronic music sounds as he bobbed his head side to side. Jinora rolled her eyes dramatically and patted him lovingly on the shoulder.

 

“There is this one club I’ve heard about from some of the staff… they do a queer night on Fridays and the music is supposed to be great.” Korra mused.

 

“Oh yeah!” Jinora chimed in. “It’s called… Vaatu something.”

 

“Vaatu’s!” Korra pointed at her roommate triumphantly. “That’s it!”

 

“We should go!” Kai leaned forward and looked around the table conspiratorially. “We can go Friday, go HAM Friday night, stay overnight, and then you’ll already be in Vancouver to pick Kuvira up on Saturday. It’s perfect!”

 

Jinora smiled and nodded and Korra glanced over at Asami, who shrugged lightly and grinned. “That sounds fun.”

 

“Let’s do it!” Korra decided. Caught up in the camaraderie around her, she didn’t think twice about yielding to the whim. “Wait, but we need a place to stay.”

 

“I’ll get us a hotel.” Asami said quickly, dismissing the notion as if it were a minor detail.

 

“I can’t let you do that, Asami.” Korra shook her head.

 

“Nonsense. You know it’s no big deal for me. I’ll cover it.” She said definitively. “Consider it a ‘graduation’ present.”

 

Korra blushed, unsure how to argue but feeling like she should. Asami continued before Korra could get a word out. “If you’re so worried about it, you can buy me all my drinks.”

 

“Pfft done! ” Kai chortled. “Miss Sato, I hereby promise that myself and these two lovely skiing professionals are going to get you wasted!” Asami raised a teasing eyebrow at the guide as they laughed and somehow, without Korra getting a chance to complain, the agreement was sealed. 

 

The group spent the next few minutes eagerly searching on their phones for a location with availability on this short notice. They identified a hotel, higher end than Korra would have liked, but Asami waved her concern away before Korra had even decided to object. 

 

The CEO tapped on her screen to secure their reservation and paused, frowning. “What is it?” Jinora asked.

 

“They’re pretty booked up for Friday, and it looks like they only have rooms with King-sized beds available.”

 

The table quieted and they all looked around. Kai and Jinora shared a smile that was too adorable for words. Korra glanced at Asami to gauge her position. The woman held an infuriatingly neutral expression, betraying no emotion whatsoever. Except Korra had learned to read the green in her eyes and she saw the slightest pause, a tiny hesitation that masked… hopefulness, maybe?

 

Korra’s self control broke. “It’s no problem, get a room for Kai and Jinora and one for you and me.” She said nonchalantly. 

 

Now, Asami reacted. Her eyebrows shot up and she turned to face Korra incredulously. “You don’t think Kuvira would have a problem with that?”

 

“Why would she?” Korra responded. Theoretically that was true; Asami and Korra were friends, no more. Friends shared hotel rooms, and beds, all the time. This is a Bad Idea. For her own sake, she threw in a casual jab. “Only problem I can see is if you snore.”

 

“I don’t snore!” Asami cried out indignantly. Actually, I know for a fact that you do.

 

“Perfect then. You don’t snore. I don’t kick in my sleep. We’re good to go. Book it!” Korra took a decisive sip of her beverage to cut the discussion short and watched as Asami shook her head but proceeded as instructed.

 

**

 

Piled inside Asami’s Stallion on Friday afternoon, the four friends made the most of their two hour drive. They sang loudly to classic rock, Kai and Jinora blithely from the back seat, Asami poorly, and Korra surprisingly in tune. So in tune, in fact, that Asami whirled to gape at her in disbelief as the woman accompanied Freddie Mercury more smoothly than she had any right to. So she can sing. That didn’t make her more alluring at all. Neither did the sideways grin that Korra flashed her when she noticed Asami’s awe.

 

When their vocal chords tired, they chose a game in which every passenger got to ask a question of the person in the proverbial ‘hot seat.’ The person must answer or agree to take a shot of liquor later that evening for every question they chose to ignore. Jinora kept detailed notes.

 

The boisterous journey made Asami forget for a while the dreaded fate awaiting her. At a club with Korra, presumably dancing, at the mercy of three adults promising to stuff her full of drinks, only to end the night in a shared bed with the person she could not have. Torture couldn’t begin to describe it. 

 

In her own irresponsible brand of revenge, Asami had selected a particularly provocative outfit to wear tonight. No absurdly high heels, for sanity’s sake, but thigh-high leather boots over tight black jeans and a scarlet top that zipped completely open in the back. When zipped shut, the shirt hugged her curves in all the right places and dipped low enough in front to show off features she knew demanded attention. She’d top it off with an open leather jacket, smokey eyeshadow with lightly green eyeliner to accentuate her eyes, and a necklace that always rested perfectly on her chest, just teasing the curve of her breasts. Yes, if this night was to be difficult for her, she could make it hard for Korra as well.

 

She couldn’t wrap her mind around what exactly Korra felt. Or what she thought. Or wanted, or anything. Asami had been woefully but dutifully putting herself at arm’s length from the woman, keeping her feelings in check to the best of her ability, and constantly filtering her words to ensure she didn’t slip up. Korra had provided enough evidence to indicate she was not dis interested, but nothing more. Until two days ago when she’d wholeheartedly agreed to share a bed and hotel room with Asami after what was fully intended to be a wild night out. ‘Hammered,’ Korra had said. There was no mistaking the gesture as… more. Except how much more, Asami had no idea. She had no idea if she even wanted to find out.

 

The possessive, instinctual part of her wanted nothing more than to tease Korra to the brink of insanity tonight. Flirt with her, dance with her, and toy with her until every ounce of self-control had been stripped away and she lay bare for Asami to discover. She would delight very much indeed in unearthing what Korra truly wanted behind her hesitations and long meaningful glances.

 

Rationale suggested a different approach. Measured, subdued, and respectful. If Korra wanted tonight to mean something, let her come. If she didn’t, then Asami would be a model friend and help her celebrate without any expectations at all. Rationale had decidedly lost the battle when she’d packed her suitcase full of lacy undergarments and her outfit for tonight.

 

“Asami, it’s your turn!” Kai tapped her shoulder, drawing her out of her thoughts. “Korra’s in the hot seat. What’s your question?”

 

Well, Asami could definitely think of a question. One most inappropriate to ask at this moment. Something else then. “What’s your favorite sex position?” A crowd favorite would do.

 

Korra hummed in thought for a few seconds as Kai and Jinora laughed, then her eyes widened with self-satisfaction and she turned to her friends with a foolish grin. “Giving.”

 

Asami had to laugh. She might’ve groaned out her frustration and irascibility if not. Of course that’s what she likes. Kai and Jinora both squawked in confusion and Korra chuckled at them. She knew Asami understood and they shared a silly grin. 

 

“Am I missing something?” Kai leaned forward to put his head between the front row seats. “Is there some sort of sex position called ‘Giving’ that I don’t know about?”

 

Asami and Korra burst into laughter, leaving Kai additionally confused and asking shamelessly for an explanation.

 

“It’s simple.” Korra tried to clarify between laughs. “Sometimes there’s only two positions: giving and receiving.”

 

“Huh?” He still looked between them, frantically searching for a little extra information. Jinora jumped in to help her disoriented beau.

 

“When it’s two women, Kai. Giving and Receiving?” She said with a hint of bemusement.

 

“Oh.” He sat back, taking a moment to let it soak in. “Ooohhhh.” Asami couldn't see behind her but she could easily imagine the saucers that had become of his eyes as the realization set in. “Nice, Korra.” His hand came forward in a fist, begging for Korra to bump it. She did, chuckling with that smug lopsided smile of hers that tied knots in Asami’s stomach.

 

“Your turn, Asami.” Jinora chirped.

 

“I thought I just went?”

 

“Not to ask. You’re in the hot seat now. That was Korra’s last question. She gets to ask first.”

 

Oh boy. “Alright.” Asami said, donning her mask of cool, collected confidence to disguise her anxiety about where Korra could take this. “Shoot.”

 

“Have you ever been in love?” Korra asked. She had spoken neither too loud, nor too quietly. Not interested nor indifferent. Not hopeful nor disdainful. Just… an extremely pointed question delivered in perfect neutrality, providing Asami with zero information. Not that that was the point of this game, but a girl could hope.

 

Asami glanced at Korra out of the corner of her eye. It was perfectly acceptable to look at the person talking to you. A brief sideways flick of the eyes was especially appropriate considering Asami’s position as the driver. Korra caught her stare and her eyebrow twitched nearly imperceptibly before Asami answered as unemotionally as she could. “Yes.”

 

“Mako?” Korra followed up quickly, voice suddenly eager and the slightest bit shaky.

 

“Uh-uh. One question per person. Rules are rules.” Asami tsked and raised a conclusive finger. She smirked at her navigator while her heart thudded in her chest, then tilted her chin towards the back seat. “Who’s next?”

 

**

 

“So who was it?” Korra asked with forced nonchalance as she unlocked the door to her and Asami’s hotel room. She kept her smile in place as she held the door for the engineer to walk past.

 

“Who was what?” Asami called back as she rolled her suitcase to the bed. The only bed. The one they were supposed to share tonight. Korra gulped.

 

“You said you’ve been in love. Was it Mako?”

 

Asami flipped her hair over her shoulder and gave Korra a smug grin. “Oh, I’m sorry are we still playing?”

 

With that simple taunt, Asami shut Korra out, much to her consternation. She shrugged, feigning indifference. “Just curious.”

 

Curious because you just had to look at me before you answered. Those damned green eyes had sent Korra reeling when they’d locked with hers as Asami said ‘yes.’

 

Asami lifted her suitcase onto the bed and began unpacking, ignoring Korra and her indirect plea to be answered. Stymied by Asami’s silence, Korra stepped into the room and let the door swing closed behind her. She walked over to the bed and threw her small duffle bag down beside Asami’s case. 

 

“You’re really not going to tell me?” Korra let herself ask, not bothering to suppress the hurt that escaped in her voice at Asami’s unwillingness to open up to her.

 

Asami came back to her suitcase from the dresser where she’d laid a small stack of clothes. We’re only here for one night…  

 

She smiled softly at Korra, green eyes suddenly warm and apologetic, smoothing away Korra’s doubts with her expression alone. “I did love Mako, the first time we dated. The second time… well you know about that.” Asami reached into her bag and pulled out some obscenely lacy clothing. Dear lord. “I learned the hard way that falling in love is not all it’s cut out to be. Hurts like hell.”

 

Korra was torn between aching for the blunted heartbreak evident in Asami’s voice and descending into blubbering speechlessness as she watched Asami carefully put away her extremely delicate delicates. Oh god. Korra didn’t see a full piece of underwear among them, just thongs and a lacy bra that launched her mind to new heights of fantasy in an instant.

 

She turned her back abruptly, unwilling to stare open mouthed any longer and hoping the tantalizing images of Asami wearing nothing but those deliciously small pieces of clothing would eventually subside. She unzipped her bag and cleared her throat. “Mako was a royal dick.” She offered, refocusing her thoughts on the timeworn anguish she’d noticed subsumed in Asami’s statement. “Falling in love doesn’t have to hurt.”

 

The engineer chuckled as she came back, a deep throaty sound that bespoke more disdain than amusement. “In my experience,” Asami made eye contact briefly, looking at Korra through her lashes, “it always does.”

 

Korra wrinkled her brow, disliking the finality of Asami’s words. She wanted to counter, disagree, but found herself unable to formulate any argument to contradict Asami’s simple declaration. In her experience . What about in my experience?

 

She considered presenting her past with Kuvira and threw the idea away as quickly as it came. Yes, their first years together had been a thrilling, exciting journey of triumphs and defeats as Korra trained, won, and recovered. But even that once fierce intensity had its issues, produced its own doses of hurt, and eventually had been whittled down into an ever present sharp disappointment that cut up Korra’s insides no matter which way she moved. 

 

Defeated, Korra sighed. “Maybe you just haven’t had the right experience yet.” She said plaintively. And maybe I haven’t either.

 

Asami made a skeptical sound. Korra was surprised how much it stung. “Maybe,” The CEO said flatly as she closed her empty suitcase and rolled it to an out of the way corner. She slipped her phone out of her pocket to check the time as she turned around. “We’ve got just over an hour and a half till dinner. I’m going to shower, then take a power nap so I don’t fall asleep before 10pm.”

 

Korra paused, thrown by the rapid change in subject and stricken by the awareness that she’d just been pushed away. Her first instinct was to walk over to Asami and pull her close, to stop her from running. She had enough presence of mind to realize that might send the wrong message. Conflicted, she stood stock still, ruminating on what might have gotten under Asami’s skin, casting aside all regard for customary conversational behavior.

 

“Uh, Korra?” Asami's voice made her look up. “You okay?”

 

“Me?” You’re the one who seems off. “I’m fine. You?” Why do you feel so far away?

 

Asami laughed, shaking her head. It lightened the air in the room a few notches, but not enough to dispel Korra’s apprehension. “I’m fine, too.” Asami smiled, kindly enough to soothe Korra’s concerns a little further. “Just a little tired; I had an early morning. Do you need to use the bathroom before I go shower?”

 

“Hm? No, I’m good. Go ahead.” Korra decided to let it go. Asami seemed to be moving quickly past their conversation and whatever affliction it had caused her. Fine.

 

Once Asami was in the bathroom, Korra threw her clothes into a drawer and stripped down to her sports bra and boy shorts. She crawled into the bed, picking her usual side, and focused on relaxing her mind and releasing her muscles. If Asami was going to sleep, Korra could too. Would make the night a lot more fun. Within minutes of going horizontal, she was out like a light against her pillow.

 

“Hey…” A warm, gentle voice tugged Korra out of darkness along with a soft shake of her shoulder.

 

“Hm?” Korra lifted her head only an inch and half-opened her eyes to find a blurry Asami sitting on the bed next to her. She blinked her vision into focus. Asami wore an oversized T-shirt and short pajama shorts that left miles of leg exposed for appreciation. Korra’s cheeks scrunched up into a smile.

 

“Can you scoot over a little?” Asami asked quietly. “I don’t know how you managed, but you’re already taking up the entire bed and I’ve been gone less than fifteen minutes.”

 

“Wh-huh?” Korra cast her limited consciousness out towards her arms and legs, registering as her awareness arrived that they were spread in a broad starfish shape. She wiggled her fingers underneath pillows on opposite sides of the bed to confirm Asami’s accusation. “Oh. ‘m sorry.” She mumbled and collected her limbs, turning onto her side and tucking her arms in front of her as she scooted backwards to make room.

 

“Thanks.” Asami smiled and Korra’s sleep-addled brain didn’t remind her to not watch as Asami slipped into bed next to her. There was something hypnotizing about the graceful way Asami pulled the covers back and tucked her long legs underneath before sliding down to rest on the pillow. “Wow it’s warm under here.” The engineer hummed in appreciation as she settled in. “You’re like a space heater, Korra.”

 

“Mhm you're welcome.” Korra muttered sleepily. Asami turned to lay on her side and they ended up facing each other. The droopiness weighing down Korra’s eyelids disappeared when green eyes found hers. 

 

As Asami adjusted under the covers, the comforter sent a puff of warm air against Korra’s face, carrying with it the delightful mixture of Asami’s shampoo, soap, and lotion. “You smell nice.” Korra blurted without thinking. 

 

Asami’s cheeks crinkled her eyes into a smile. “Well, that’s what showers are for.” She laughed quietly and Korra chuckled. 

 

“Guess so.” The instructor blinked at the softness that stared back at her within that endless expanse of green. So pretty.

 

“I set an alarm to go off in thirty minutes. Is that enough time for you to get ready?” Asami. So responsible. So thoughtful. You’re the greatest.

 

“Mhm. Is good.” Korra slurred, sleep regaining control of her faculties.

 

Asami chuckled. “‘Night Korra.”

 

“G’night ‘Sami.” She mumbled as her eyes fell closed on the wondrous sight of Asami laying beside her.

 

**

 

‘Maybe you just haven’t had the right experience yet.’ Asami sighed heavily as she replayed Korra’s words in her head. The bitter irony had left her feeling more than a little resentful and she knew she’d hidden it poorly based on Korra’s wounded reaction. Ever the sucker, she immediately wanted to walk over and hug Korra’s worries away. Nothing like a few months of practice controlling her impulses to help her resist the urge.

 

That did nothing against the desire to open her eyes and scan Korra’s face, however. She looked so cute and so peaceful with her eyes gently closed and her mouth slightly open as it released slow steady breaths. Before she’d fallen asleep, Korra’s piercing blue eyes had nearly bowled Asami over, burning her with that affection that set Asami to questioning all of her decisions to keep away. She’d been on the verge of reaching for her when Korra’s comment about her smelling good kicked her back behind the line she was toeing. 

 

Try to sleep, Sato. With another sigh, she shoved away the tempting idea of scooting close to Korra for warmth and closed her eyes. Rest. She would need her guard up tonight and alertness was crucial for success. She fell asleep debating with herself about what ‘success’ really meant.

 

She woke up before her alarm to the sight of Korra’s muscular back, gloriously bare except for the curve of a sports bra that Asami instantly wanted gone. Oh my. Korra was already awake, sitting on the edge of the bed, back turned to Asami and looking down at something in her lap—probably her phone. Yep. She reached sideways to set the device on the bedside table and then lifted her arms up into a stretch. Oh god.

 

Korra flexed her arms and back, as one does when stretching sleep away, completely unaware of Asami’s hungry gaze. Asami’s mouth went dry as she watched the muscles ripple beneath that enticingly dark skin. She licked her lips as Korra brought a hand to her neck and her fingers worked away a kink, causing a whole new dimension of undulations. Asami noticed another tattoo she hadn’t seen before, something geometric inked along the length of Korra’s tricep. Her eyes raked appreciatively up and down the entire expanse of tone and Asami lost herself a little in imagining what that strength might feel like under her mouth and her hands, how it might respond to her dragging her nails over it, and how thoroughly she’d enjoy all the things she’d allow it to do to her.

 

Korra stood up and Asami widened her eyes, only then realizing that Korra was wearing nothing but underwear over her deliciously round bottom half. The boy shorts hugged her hips and ended just below the curve of her buttocks. Which looked just as toned as her back, mind you. Lord have mercy. Asami had, of course, seen Korra in a bikini before. But the material of a swimsuit did nothing compared to what the thin fabric of these dark blue boy shorts did in terms of clinging. She sucked her lips between her teeth as she followed Korra’s ass around the room with her eyes. 

 

So Korra had slept next to her half-naked. And would probably be doing it again tonight. Sure. Okay. This is fine, Asami thought to herself as fire raged in her body and mind.

 

**

 

“Forgot to pack pajamas?” Korra started at the sound of Asami’s voice, unaware her ‘roommate’ had woken up. She turned to find the engineer looking up at her, green eyes twinkling as she lay on her side with the sheets pulled up to her waist. As Korra tried not to let her eyes follow the outline of Asami’s butt and legs, it occurred to her just how specific this scene might look: Korra in her underwear peering down at a half-covered Asami in bed. She found she quite liked the image before she blinked it away, filing it in her ever growing stockpile of wonderful but inappropriate thoughts re: Asami Sato.

 

“These are my pajamas.” Korra countered, gesturing to her two undergarments. A streak of devilishness added, “When I wear them, that is.”

 

She smirked, relishing the brief flash of panic in Asami’s eyes before the engineer schooled her expression. Asami pushed the covers off her legs and swung them off the bed in a motion as smooth as her skin appeared to be. “Oh, well don’t let me stop you from sleeping how you want Korra.” Asami glanced over her shoulder and winked. 

 

Korra nearly yelped at the implication. The images her mind conjured combined with the sight of Asami’s bed-ruffled hair swinging over her exposed shoulder and that infernal wink left Korra feeling like she’d be better off as a puddle on the floor. 

 

“No this is fine!” She squawked before swiftly turning around and retreating to the bathroom. She heard Asami’s wonderful laugh as she shut the door behind her. How could she love that laugh so much even when it came at her expense? 

 

“Hey!” She called out after a minute. “I’m going to shower. Do you need the bathroom before I get started?” Do not think of Asami coming in here with you. 

 

“No, I’m all set.” Asami’s answer drew a sigh of relief as Korra turned on the hot water. Better not to tempt fate. 

 

Wrapped in a towel, Korra stepped out of the bathroom followed by a large cloud of steam. Toweling her hair, she opened her eyes just in time to avoid bumping into Asami in front of the mirror. Oh come on. You’ve got to be kidding me. 

 

The engineer stood holding a blow dryer and brush, expertly brushing out her silky hair, in nothing but black skinny jeans and a bra. The same lacy bra that Korra had glimpsed before it disappeared into the dresser drawer. Aw man.

 

How to describe the sight other than utterly unfair? Literally everything, from Asami’s calves to the way her lightly toned stomach dove into the waistband of her jeans was irritatingly perfect. Not to mention dark and sexy. Her breasts, cradled enviably by the ornate bra, jumped with her motions as Asami worked the brush and blow dryer in a coordinated dance. My life is over. Asami put the tools down and swished her hair back and forth a few times, raking long fingers through it as she pulled it back into a loose tail. Nevermind. Now my life is over.

 

Korra cleared her throat. She had no idea if she did it to remind her lungs to breathe or to announce her presence or to make Asami pause long enough for Korra to walk past her without falling over. Whatever. Asami turned to her and smiled. “Hey.” Fuck my life.

 

“Hi.” Korra answered, redoubling her focus on drying her own hair. “I like your outfit. Aren’t you going to be cold?” Jokes. Yes, jokes are good.

 

Asami laughed—such a magical sound—and shook her head, looking down at herself. Which only gave Korra’s eyes an excuse to follow suit. “Probably would be if I were to wear this.” She looked back up. “But no, I have an actual shirt. Just don’t want to get it dirty when I put on make-up. And the hair dryer sometimes gets a little too hot.”

 

Right. Korra noticed that Asami’s cheeks were indeed flushed, the appeal of which she had been too distracted to recognize. She did now, though. 

 

Then, suddenly aware that she was standing naked in a towel staring at a smirking half-dressed Asami, Korra panicked and made an awkward laugh-like noise before pushing past her ‘roommate’ and heading to the dresser. She snatched her jeans and a blue V-neck from the drawer and tossed them on the bed. Korra grabbed a pair of underwear and pulled it on, towel still around her and her back to Asami, then reached for her bra. She paused, taking a steadying breath. No use being shy about this now. You’re already halfway there. She let her towel drop to the floor.

 

Her back was turned, so she didn’t get to see Asami’s reaction. Pity, because the small gasp she heard told her it would’ve been a good one. She smirked to herself as she looped her arms through the straps and reached backwards to fasten the clasps. Just in case Asami was still looking, Korra made a little extra effort with her back muscles as she reached. Innocent fun.

 

Once clasped and covered, Korra turned around and bent to retrieve her towel from the floor. She put it on the bed, exchanging it for her jeans, and tugged them on. She hesitated briefly before slipping into her shirt, maybe she should keep it off to make it less awkward that Asami was only half dressed? Eh, better not. A second later she was fully clothed, V-neck dipping low into her cleavage and partially tucked into her jeans. She donned a belt that matched the ankle boots and brown leather jacket she’d put on just before they left. 

 

She took a step towards the full-length mirror and frowned. Asami remained in front of it, just as tantalizing, but now working a brush lightly over her eyelids. Forcing herself to behave like a normal human being sharing a hotel room with a friend, Korra steeled her nerves and walked closer until she was standing behind the engineer and could see most of her own reflection despite Asami. 

 

Without being asked, Asami took a few steps to the side to allow Korra better access to the mirror. Again, willing her eyes to behave, she checked her outfit and poked at it here and there to arrange it just so. She kept prodding a few seconds longer than necessary, not entirely avoiding the peripheral view she had of Asami delicately applying her make-up.

 

“You look nice.” The engineer said from behind busy hands.

 

Please, cheeks. Don’t blush. “Thanks.” Korra blushed. “I’d say the same for you but you’re not done yet.”

 

“Don’t worry, I won’t disappoint.” Asami said with a smirk. You haven’t ever. 

 

Korra sighed at her uncontrollable thoughts in front of the mirror and decided today would probably be an appropriate night for a little make-up. Loathing the process, she grabbed her bag and quickly dabbed on a bit of eyeshadow, a blueish liner that Jinora said did wonders for her eyes, and some mascara. It did look pretty good, once she took a step back and saw the whole picture. Not bad.

 

Asami seemed to agree. Korra noticed she’d stopped moving her hands and was staring at Korra through the mirror. Korra grinned. “Hope that look isn’t because I did a terrible job?” She taunted.

 

“Definitely not.” Asami said, swallowing a little crack in her voice that sent heat shooting through Korra’s veins. “It suits your eyes,” she added, sounding more strained than a compliment like that would have warranted.

 

Korra met her gaze and held it for a breathless moment before turning away to go check her phone for any messages.

 

“Kai and Jinora will be in the lobby in ten minutes,” she announced.

 

“Shoot, okay.” The engineer accelerated her pace and Korra tried not to watch as she painted her lips. Asami finished her make-up two minutes later and had her toiletries tidied up in another. 

 

Don’t watch. Asami glided around the room to put her stuff away and collect the rest of her outfit. Korra tore her eyes away from that lithe body. Watching made her want to make bad choices. Phone. Look at phone.

 

“Korra?” Asami had shuffled around some more while Korra successfully managed not to stare. 

 

“Hm?” Korra looked up to find Asami’s nearly exposed back only a few feet in front of her. The engineer had her top halfway on, which was no more than a glorified vest with a zipper that ran up its entire length in the back. The zipper was open and Asami held the two bottom corners of the shirt together behind her back as she looked over her shoulder at Korra. The sight instantly seared itself into Korra’s memory, warming her from head to toe.

 

“Can you help with this?”

 

“S-Sure.” Korra eked out. She swallowed hard against the dryness in her throat as she cast her phone aside and stood up from her perch on the bed.

 

Breathe. All normal bodily functions now required conscious effort. Walk. She took a few ginger steps until she was standing behind Asami. Breathe again. Being so close to Asami’s skin made it infinitely more difficult. 

 

Korra let her eyes wander down the pale curve of Asami’s spine. Her fingers itched to reach out and trace over it. Her skin looked so soft. She cast her mind back to remember if she’d ever gotten a chance to feel her. Once, for barely a second, when Asami had jumped into the hot tub and landed accidentally in her lap. Korra had held her by the waist for a split second to stabilize her. She remembered how her palms tingled after that contact. Korra’s heartbeat quickened as she imagined how it would feel to touch Asami now, slowly, taking the time to let the prickling electricity spread from her fingertips through her whole body. She wanted to press her palm against Asami’s bare shoulder blade and slide that shirt back off. No! Focus on the task at hand.

 

Korra gulped and reached forward, grabbing the two corners of the shirt from Asami’s hands. Her fingers slid between Asami’s to take the fabric and she held her breath as Asami’s hands dropped away. 

 

As Korra aligned the bottoms of the zipper, Asami lifted her arms and gathered her hair into a messy hold to lift it out of the way. Oh gosh . The vision before her begged for Korra to lean forward and plant a kiss on the slope between Asami’s neck and shoulder. Her hands started shaking as she focused on resisting everything she knew she should not be doing. Asami’s hair smelled divine. God help me.

 

She managed to get the zipper started, but in doing so her knuckles grazed Asami’s lower back. Mmm oh no. She was softer than Korra could have possibly imagined and Korra’s entire consciousness narrowed to contain only the electric connection between her knuckle and the base of Asami’s spine. And the small jump her touch elicited from the engineer. Oh shit please don’t react. If you react I…

 

Korra’s breathing turned ragged as she began to raise the zipper, keeping one hand at the base unwilling to give up the contact with Asami’s skin. Her other hand… misbehaved. She had no excusable reason to hold the zipper the way she did, one finger on the inside as she pulled it upward. But now that she was letting her knuckle graze its way up Asami’s back as she closed the shirt, she was certain she didn’t have the willpower to do it any differently. Not when Asami shivered subtly against her and she saw the goosebumps blossoming on Asami’s arms and shoulders from her touch. Fuck...

 

If Asami had betrayed no reaction, Korra might not have taken a half step closer as the zipper climbed to its apex. If there had been no goosebumps on Asami’s neck as Korra’s fingers reached it, she might not have let her thumb lightly graze the patch of skin that remained exposed once the shirt was closed. If Asami’s shoulders hadn’t begun to visibly rise and fall as her breathing hitched, Korra probably wouldn’t have reached up and gently coaxed Asami’s fingers out of her hair to let it cascade over her back. She definitely wouldn’t have placed her hands lightly on either side of Asami’s waist as she said, “All set.”

 

The raspy hoarseness in her voice shocked her back to reality. This is not okay. Korra took a step backward, regaining control of her faculties and her breathing. She forced a smile as Asami turned around to face her, a little flushed and green eyes wide with a question Korra knew she couldn’t answer.

 

The intense allure of Asami fully dressed slammed into her chest shortly after the intensity in Asami’s gaze. The shirt hugged her body, echoing all of what Korra had forced herself not to stare at over the last half hour. The finished make-up drew Korra deep into Asami’s eyes, framed by her smoky eye shadow and a liner that brought the piercing green into bright, striking relief. The front of the shirt dipped low and a necklace pulled focus down from Asami’s neck and into her cleavage, which Korra now remembered was still wrapped in a delicately lacy undergarment. Asami looked ravishing. Fuck. Me.  

 

And Korra had just touched her. In a way she knew she shouldn’t have. In a way she wanted to do over and over again. We need to leave. Now.

 

“Now that you’re finally ready, I can tell you you look nice.” Korra said after clearing her throat. She gave Asami what she hoped was an innocent grin, though it came out a little lopsided.

 

“Oh, u-um, thank you.” Asami said quietly, her eyebrows drawing together as she tried to make sense of the situation and Korra’s unconvincing backpedaling.

 

No use dragging this out. Let’s get out of here. “Let’s go?” Korra suggested with a shrug.

 

Asami exhaled, clearly confused but, like the saint she was, willing to play along with Korra’s selfish ambivalence. “Sure. Let’s go. I’ll get my shoes.”

 

Korra pulled on her ankle boots and leather jacket. Only to look up and find that Asami had done the same. Except her leather jacket was black and it had enough undone buckles all over  it that Korra started thinking about all the ways she could use them to tug Asami towards her. No. Bad Korra.

 

And her boots weren’t ankle boots. Of course not. Why would Asami Sato settle for something so banal as normal boots? No. She had to be wearing boots that came all the way up above her knees. She’d folded down the top few inches of the leg so they didn’t rest at her mid-thigh and Korra was dumbfounded that someone could look so hot in so much leather.

 

“Ready.” Asami said as she slipped her phone and wallet into her jacket pockets and settled her weight on one hip. Dark, ponderous eyes landed on Korra. “You good?”

 

Not at all. I’m dead. “Yep, let’s go.” Korra couldn’t contain the crack in her voice. 

 

This is going to be a difficult night.

Chapter Text

What the hell was that? Asami put serious effort into making sure her knees functioned as she and Korra walked innocently down the hall to meet Kai and Jinora. She was still shaky, skin pebbled and sensitive under her clothes and nipples certainly stiff against the fabric of her bra. Thank goodness for the thicker fabric. She didn’t want to think too hard about what Korra might’ve done if she’d been able to see how much Asami lit up in response to her.

 

And wow had that been unexpected. Asami hadn’t exactly helped the situation by parading around in nothing but pants and a bra but, in all honesty, it was a regular occurrence with Opal and some of her teammates. Rugby had a way of erasing modesty. It had done away with hers as she accustomed herself to changing in and out of jerseys in front of teammates, opponents, coaches, and refs. Don’t kid yourself. Okay so maybe her choice of attire for getting ready hadn’t been entirely independent of the effect it might have on Korra. 

 

But what an effect. Asami shivered again at the memory of Korra’s hand ghosting up her back. She had had to hold back all manner of sounds that gripped her throat while Korra deliberately took her time. God, and the feeling of Korra’s fingers threading in her hair, grabbing her hand and removing it gently… she’d nearly fallen backwards into her.

 

At the elevator lobby, Asami decided that remembering was a bad plan. In the mirror, she caught a glimpse of how red her cheeks appeared (in addition to the rouge she’d applied) and how frustratingly obvious it was when she clenched her jaw to control any other more inappropriate reactions. Korra, for her part, seemed content to stare at the floor and say nothing. She looked tense and uncomfortable and it broke Asami’s heart to know it was because of her. Just move on from this. Better for her and better for you, Sato.

 

“So what are you drinking tonight?” Asami asked, compelling herself to sound casual and aloof. Korra finally glanced up shyly from the floor. “I’m thinking I’ll stick with whiskey. Don’t want to mix so I’m not a zombie tomorrow.”

 

Korra’s eyes widened and her eyebrows drew together, puzzled but grateful. The expression lasted less than a second before being replaced by a thoughtful pout. “Hadn’t thought about it actually… Tequila?”

 

A laugh burst out of Asami in the way that only happened around Korra. “That’s a bold move, Cotton.”

 

Korra guffawed at the reference and blew Asami away with a wide, genuine grin. “What? Don’t think I can handle it?”

 

“Let’s see how it plays out.” Asami winked, finishing the quote and drawing a warm laugh from her friend. They stepped into the elevator together, tension sufficiently relieved for Asami to relax. 

 

At dinner, after the first round or two, the tension returned in full force. Korra kept her knee pressed against Asami’s thigh under the table, sending pulses of fire up Asami’s leg every time either of them moved. She leaned close whenever Asami spoke, subtly craning her neck and giving Asami an unfairly tantalizing view of the column of her throat sloping into her chest, wonderfully exposed by her V-neck Tee. When Korra left to go to the restroom, she squeezed Asami’s shoulder as she walked behind her. 

 

Asami burned to reciprocate the flirtations, to reach for Korra whenever she talked, to run her fingers over Korra’s thigh under the table, and generally stop holding herself back. The whiskey and Korra both chipped away at Asami’s restraint and she knew that if it went on for much longer, she’d be hanging on by a thread.

 

“Shots!” Kai announced as they paid their cover to the club. Oh geez. Asami was still recovering from Korra leaning on her shoulder in the cab ride over from the restaurant. “C’mon Sato,” Kai wrapped an arm around her, “I owe you many beverages!”

 

Jinora grabbed Korra’s hand and the couple dragged Asami and Korra to the bar. Kai ordered a round of shots for everyone while Asami perused the menu for what to request next.

 

“Need a recommendation?” Asami glanced up to find the bartender smiling at her from behind the bar as she poured Kai’s order. 

 

She returned the kind smile. “As a matter of fact I do. What whiskies do you have back there?”

 

The bartender grinned and leaned forward on the bar, pointing to a few different items on the menu. She rattled off their whiskey selection from memory and Asami found herself pleasantly distracted for the first time all evening. 

 

Not two minutes later Korra materialized behind her, placing a hand on the small of her back. Asami nearly whimpered at the contact, completely forgetting herself and her conversation as all of her awareness was consumed by Korra’s fingers pressing into her. 

 

“Hey, I think those people over there are ready to order.” Korra said smugly to the bartender and pointed a ways down the bar. She turned to Asami with a self satisfied smirk and let her hand linger for a few seconds longer than strictly necessary. Let’s be real, none of this is strictly necessary. “C’mon ‘Sami, you have to take your shot.” Korra made a point of holding eye contact and Asami noticed the bartender walk away out of the corner of her eye.

 

Korra’s hand moved to rest on her hip, lightly enough to be friendly but unusual enough that it split Asami’s remaining resolve in half. You want to play this game? Fine. 

 

Asami put a hand on each of Korra’s shoulders and leaned forward, pushing Korra slightly aside to call past her. She brought them nearly cheek to cheek and extended her neck to offer Korra an unobstructed view down her front as she beckoned their friends over. “Jinora! Kai! Come on! Let’s take the shots together.” 

 

The grip on her hip tightened as she pulled back and she stole a moment to search Korra’s eyes for a reaction. She swallowed hard at the unrestrained desire that met her before Korra dropped her hand and turned to face their friends. Asami took a steadying breath . This didn’t feel like a game anymore.

 

They downed their beverages and Kai ordered Asami her chosen cocktail as Jinora and Korra chatted beside them. Burying her nose in her cup, delivered to her with another warm smile from the bartender, Asami used her reprieve to cool the blaze that Korra had ignited within her with just that look.

 

“I love this song!” Jinora exclaimed. “Let’s go dance!” She bounced on her toes and was halfway to the dancefloor with Kai in tow before Asami had had enough time to finish her drink. Korra stayed with her, waiting expectantly.

 

“You ready?” The instructor said, as quietly and privately as possible in such a setting. She’d leaned up and spoken near Asami’s ear in order to be heard and Asami found herself out of air before she could answer. She nodded mutely instead, setting her empty cup on the bar a split second before Korra dragged her by the wrist after Kai and Jinora. 

 

They walked around, navigating the ever-heavier press of dancing bodies, searching for their friends. After finding themselves a handful of dead ends, Korra turned to Asami and shrugged. 

 

“They’ll find us eventually.” Asami bent down to Korra’s ear to avoid yelling. “We should stay in one place.” She pulled back far enough to see Korra bob her head once then point down to the floor and tilt her chin to one side. ‘Is here good?’ she asked wordlessly. Asami nodded her assent and began to move tentatively with the music. This was a great song. 

 

She closed her eyes to let the rhythm wash over her, in hopes it would relax her enough to really move. Somewhere beyond her reach, she assumed Korra did the same. Asami sighed, forcing the tension to slough off her shoulders and focusing on the way the beat traveled through her. The rhythm buzzed in her ears and reverberated in her chest, driving her hips to sway with increasing abandon as the tempo slowly consumed all her thoughts. Within a few seconds, the song swept her away completely and she opened her eyes with a smile to check if Korra was having as much fun.

 

Apparently, the instructor wasn’t quite as lost in the music as she was. Amidst the swirling lights, Asami caught glimpses of Korra’s eyes landing on her as she danced. As much as it shouldn’t, knowing that Korra was watching compelled her to move closer, languidly rocking her body to the beat as she approached. Somewhere in her mind the stone cold sober CEO warned her this was a bad idea. Tipsy Asami decided it wasn’t.

 

She stopped an arm’s length away and figured that was far enough. She could dance and enjoy herself this way, teasing Korra from just beyond her reach. Asami would not close the gap, she told herself; Korra was still… off limits. So she turned around and let the music thrum within her, reveling in the thrill she felt every time the lights flashed and she knew she was being appreciated. This isn’t going to end well.

 

Not three seconds later, two strong hands planted themselves firmly on her swaying hips. Asami’s breath caught in her throat as they yanked her backwards a half step. That was all the distance left between her and Korra as the instructor stepped forward and pressed herself against Asami’s back.

 

It took a mountain of will for Asami not to groan in response and cock her hips back into Korra. Instead, weak from the sheer amount of contact being afforded her after craving it for so long, she let her head loll back to rest against Korra’s shoulder. It left her flush against Korra’s front. Korra’s breasts pushed into her upper back and her breaths fell hot against the sensitive skin of her collarbone. Her entire body froze. This feels too good.

 

Asami’s breathing grew ragged and they hesitated together for a brief eternity before Korra’s grip on her sides gently reminded her that she should, in fact, be dancing. Experimentally, Asami cocked her hip to one side, then the other. Korra’s hands and body followed seamlessly, never breaking contact. The connection was glorious.

 

Side to side quickly grew too innocent for Tipsy Asami’s liking. So she rolled her entire body, starting with her chest, sending a wave of pressure against Korra that ended with pressing her ass back between Korra’s legs. Korra’s response left her throbbing. She dug her fingertips into Asami’s hip bones, held her close, and groaned purposefully just below Asami’s ear. God, Korra. Yes.

 

Tipsy Asami rolled again. Drawing this reaction immediately proved itself too addicting to let reason, logic, and decency get in her way. She continued sending waves through her body into Korra’s, arching her back and losing herself in the heat radiating from Korra’s center. Shielded by the music and the dark, it became her mission to coax that friction to a breaking point. 

 

Dazed and out of breath, Asami turned around. Korra’s hands remained on her hips, but the pressure subsided into a touch so light that Asami wished there were no barriers between their skin. She wanted those fingertips on her, brushing beneath the hem of her shirt and tracing wicked patterns wherever they roamed.

 

Asami put her hands over Korra’s shoulders and began to move again, side to side, slowly at first. This was close. Closer than they’d ever been. Their breaths mingled with each quiet and experimental rock of their hips. Neither of them seemed to want to break the spell. 

 

Her brain shut off when Korra squeezed her hips again and tugged at her . She knew how her chest heaved as she yielded and stepped into Korra. Asami placed a knee strategically between Korra’s and, with their legs staggered, nothing prevented their hips from coming into full contact. Ungh yes.

 

Asami’s hands raked down Korra’s back until they were tucked tightly about her waist. She marveled at the feel of Korra’s abdomen tensing and releasing against her palms as they danced. She pressed into her, pulling Korra closer still. 

 

Pressure and heat roared between them as their bodies moved in time, molded against one another, until Asami could hear nothing but the thundering of her own heart. She forgot what it was like to breathe anything but Korra’s perfume and the scent of her skin. Before she could think, she had leaned down, bringing her nose an inch from Korra’s ear. 

 

The gasp she heard against her own cheek was all the encouragement she needed to close the distance and brush her lips against Korra’s ear and the tender skin just beneath it. So unbelievably soft. I want you so much. She almost whispered the plea, knowing the effect her lips would have as they moved against her neck.

 

Korra tensed under her hands. “I-I can’t.”

 

The spell shattered. Pressure disappeared from everywhere: Korra’s hands suddenly hovered distantly above Asami’s hips, cool air flowed into the space that appeared instantly between their bodies, and Asami’s palms felt cold and stiff against Korra’s waist. Get out. Asami finally listened to reason and stumbled away. 

 

She whispered a quick “I’m sorry” loosely in Korra’s direction, then turned to make a beeline for the restroom. 

 

Hide. Asami tried to disguise that she was running as she fled. Fuck, what did I do? She shook her head repeatedly, cursing herself for losing control. That was so stupid, so, so stupid. She had found her way into the dark hall that led to the restrooms, formulating a plan for how to extricate herself from this situation gracefully, when someone grabbed her elbow and spun her around.

 

“Asami, wait.”

 

Korra stood behind her, eyes lost and desperate and searching Asami for something. She didn’t let go of Asami’s arm.

 

The engineer exhaled slowly, bracing herself to say no to whatever came next. She refused to screw things up for Korra; she didn’t deserve that. Kuvira was flying in tomorrow for god's sake!

 

Nothing happened. Korra held her and stared at her intently but said and did nothing. Her mouth opened, but no words came out. Asami set her jaw, determined to say nothing more than what she’d already said. ‘I’m sorry’ was really all that mattered at this point; she’d crossed a line and no further explanation would help.

 

A ruckus in the hallway behind Korra forced them to move as a gaggle of girls giggled their way to the restrooms. They elbowed past Korra, pushing her aside and towards Asami. Asami staggered away, intending to keep as much distance between them as possible, until her back hit the wall. Damnit. The girls kept shoving, leaving Korra with no place to go but into Asami. Oh come on. Really?!

 

Korra hadn’t released Asami’s arm. Once the horde had gone, Asami was pinned between Korra and the wall of the dim hallway. It didn’t help that even after the crowd had passed, Korra took a step closer. 

 

Asami swallowed hard. Her chest rose and fell dramatically as she tried to fill her lungs. She knew Korra could see. She tightened her jaw and Korra loosened the grip on her arm. You gonna let me go now?

 

Apparently not. Korra didn’t move. She held Asami in place with nothing but her eyes, unwilling to leave Asami’s face. They flicked down to Asami’s lips and she bit back a whimper. Asami caught the want overflowing from the darkened blue as they lingered on her mouth. She noticed Korra’s breathing get heavier and watched her sway slightly in her direction. Oh god.

 

Asami sank her teeth into her lower lip to stop herself from doing anything stupider. Korra’s eyes widened at the sight, but didn’t break focus as she brought a hand up to Asami’s cheek. She took another fraction of a step closer. Asami’s heart thundered in her chest, every muscle in her body begging for Korra and warring against her brain which could only whisper weakly no no no.

 

The engineer was melting, barely holding herself together under Korra’s searing touch and the blaze in her eyes. Korra’s thumb tugged her bottom lip out from between her teeth, and Asami came undone. Any will left in her brain dissolved into the whimper that escaped her lips, vibrating against Korra’s thumb lingering on her mouth. Asami screwed her eyes shut to regain some semblance of control and keep her knees from wobbling.

 

When she opened them again, Korra’s blue eyes were on hers. Her thumb was no longer grazing Asami’s lips, but she hadn’t removed her hand, still cupping Asami’s cheek. Asami read the conflict contorting her expression. She didn’t dare move a muscle as she watched Korra teeter between desire, confusion, frustration, and desire again. It was too much. Asami wanted her too much to resist anymore. Goddamnit Korra just kiss me already. 

 

And just as she thought it, Korra realized she couldn’t. Korra set her jaw and dropped her hand. Her eyebrows drew together, anguished and remorseful—for what, Asami couldn’t tell—and then Korra walked away.

 

Fuuuck. Asami groaned as she tilted her head back to rest against the wall. She banged it a few times for good measure, just to make sure she fully came back to her heart-wrenching reality. Korra = off limits. She closed her eyes and repeated the mantra over and over for what felt like forever. 

 

“You alright, honey?” A kind voice cut through her focus. She hated being called that. But when she opened her eyes to level a withering gaze on the owner of that condescending phrase, she found herself smiling instead. 

 

It was the bartender, the one who’d chatted with her for much longer than required to help select her drink. The one she’d thought was nice and kind of cute. The one that Korra had been unnecessarily rude to.

 

“Honestly, it’s just been a bad day.” Asami answered. It wasn’t a lie.

 

The cute bartender tilted her head to one side and smiled sympathetically. “I can understand that. Sorry if I bothered you, just wanted to make sure you weren’t fixing to pass out or something.” She chuckled and Asami decided she liked her laugh. When the bartender moved to walk away, Asami felt a desperate need to not be alone.

 

She reached out and touched the woman's elbow, stopping her. “Krista, was it?” Krista nodded and smiled again. “When do you get off work?” The bartender’s smile widened and Asami found herself smiling back. 

 

“Just did.” Krista grinned and tilted her head again, letting her curls bounce off her shoulder. Perfect.

 

“Do you want to get out of here?” Asami suggested to her soft brown eyes. “I remember you saying something about some decent cocktail bars around the corner… Drinks on me?” She raised an eyebrow and saw it had the exact desired effect. Krista bit the grin on her lip and nodded a ‘yes.’

 

“Let me just grab my stuff.” Krista pointed over her shoulder to a door labeled ‘Employees Only.’ “Meet back here in five?”

 

Asami smirked and agreed. She took an appreciative look at Krista’s ass as the woman walked away and decided this could be a decent way to work out her frustration. It would be unquestionably reckless, perhaps even hurtful, but Asami was beyond the point of caring. If she couldn’t have the one bad decision she really wanted, she’d make another. She shuffled over to the coat check and recovered her jacket, then shot a quick text to the group.

 

Asami [00:04]

Heading out. See you guys back at the hotel. Have fun!

 

Krista seemed pleasantly surprised that Asami showed up at their agreed meeting spot. “What? Didn’t think I’d come back?” Asami asked flirtatiously.

 

The bartender shrugged innocently and laughed. “I had my doubts. Wouldn’t be the first time.”

 

Asami, emboldened by the turmoil she ached to drown out, took a step closer to Krista and leaned down to whisper in her ear. “Not tonight. I’m all yours. However you want me.”

 

Krista practically growled in approval and Asami smiled to herself. At least I can still have an effect. It was a superficial comfort, but she would take what she could get tonight. She didn’t expect Krista to grab her by the scruff of her jacket and drag her towards the ‘Employees Only’ closet. Oh, well then. She grinned as the woman opened the door and they slipped through.

 

Asami felt herself pushed roughly against the door to close it and before she could look around, hot lips engulfed hers. Yes. This will do nicely. She met them eagerly.

 

The kiss was wet and sloppy and hungry but it sufficed. Krista slid a leg up between Asami’s and hummed in delight at the heat she found there. Asami felt the throb returning to her core, thankfully no longer because of Korra. Not Korra damnit! She shoved the thought of Korra away and refocused on the woman currently wrapped around her.

 

Asami moaned softly as she pressed herself against Krista’s thigh, and the bartender shoved her jacket open and began planting kisses and licks on Asami’s neck. Asami threw her head back against the door and closed her eyes, intending to savor the physicality of the moment and the relief of pressure against her clit.

 

The moment she stopped moving and attempted to relax into the sensations, Korra popped into her head. Korra’s smile, her eyes, and the want she saw there. The press of Korra’s fingers against her hips as they danced matched the pressure of Krista’s as they drove Asami harder against her thigh. Argh, no. Asami’s eyes shot wide open and she pushed Krista away by the shoulders.

 

The woman looked terrified and apologetic before Asami flipped her around and pushed her up against the door, switching their positions. Krista smiled as Asami crashed their lips together again then moved to taste the skin of her neck. She didn’t want to think. She wanted to drown Korra out of her brain. Maybe if she was the one giving, she wouldn’t have time to remember. 

 

Krista moaned as Asami left a love bite on her collarbone. Yes. The engineer placed a palm against the woman’s chest and pushed her jacket open to gain access to the buttons on her blouse. She tucked her fingers around a button then paused. Asami lifted her head and made eye contact, “Is this okay?”

 

“Fuck yes it is.” Krista’s breathy response was barely audible as she tugged Asami’s head back into her neck. Asami smiled against her as her fingers deftly unbuttoned the bartender's shirt and her lips resumed their assault on the soft skin of her shoulders.

 

Each time Krista attempted to switch or get Asami to give in to her touches, Asami growled her resistance and pinned her harder against the door, knowing that if she stopped her mind would be flooded with Korra, Korra, Korra. She couldn’t afford that right now. Fortunately, the bartender seemed to enjoy being restrained by Asami’s legs and hands and groaned in approval every time Asami bested her. 

 

Her moans and whimpers egged Asami on and pretty soon she had Krista facing the door, palms flat against the wood and wrists trapped in Asami’s left hand. Asami’s right hand wandered across Krista’s abdomen beneath her unbuttoned blouse and teased each of her nipples in turn. The bartender rolled her hips backwards against Asami, pressing against her crotch.

 

“Hmm,” Asami breathed against her ear, “is there something you want?”

 

“Y-yes.” Krista whimpered. “T-touch me.”

 

Asami hummed in appreciation and slid her right hand down the woman’s navel to the waist of her jeans. She ran a finger along the inside of the seams and asked again. “Is this what you want?”

 

“Yes!” The bartender rocked backwards again. “Please.”

 

The whining plea was all Asami needed. She grinned as she slid her hand past the fabric and down below the underwear she discovered was pleasantly lacy. The wetness that met her fingers made her groan appreciatively into the bartender’s ear and nibble on her earlobe. “Mmm so wet.”

 

“Fuck. Yes. Touch me.” Krista pleaded and Asami gave. She circled and rubbed the slippery nub with her fingertips until Krista could barely suppress her short high-pitched screams and canted her hips frantically against Asami’s hand. Asami held her in place as she finished Krista off with her fingers, pressing herself hard against the woman’s back.

 

Once she’d stopped bucking, Asami removed her hand and turned the bartender around. Krista leaned back against the door with her eyes closed to catch her breath. The redness in her cheeks and her lips was rather becoming and Asami found herself smiling. Good work, Sato.

 

Krista’s eyes opened, dark and lustful. She reached for Asami’s hand and locked her eyes on Asami’s green ones as she licked her own wetness of Asami’s fingers. Mm, very nice. Asami lost herself in the woman’s gaze and the feel of her tongue against her fingertips.

 

It only lasted a moment. The second she felt Krista’s other hand wrap around her and grab her ass, she knew she could go no further. Korra invaded her brain again and all she could think about was how warm Korra’s lips would feel around her fingers and how Korra’s strong hands would lift her thighs. Goddamnit.

 

Asami screwed her eyes shut and shook her head. “I’m sorry Krista… I-I can’t.” The need she felt throbbing at her center begged for one person only and she cursed herself for being so weak.

 

She looked back at the bartender, who met her gaze with puzzlement. Then an overwhelming  understanding filled her brown eyes. The impossibly kind woman smiled. “I think I understand.”

 

“I-it’s not your fault… I just…” Asami tried to explain but couldn’t quite find the words.

 

“It’s okay.” Krista assured. She released Asami’s hand and began quietly rebuttoning her shirt. “I’ve been where you are.”

 

“What do you mean?” Asami scrunched up her eyebrows.

 

“Seems to me like you have someone else on your mind.” Krista said matter-of-factly.

 

Asami’s eyebrows shot up. “That obvious?”

 

Krista laughed. She had such a nice, bubbly laugh. “I guess I’m just good at reading people.”

 

Asami gave her best apologetic stare and the bartender just smiled again. She leaned forward and kissed Asami softly on the lips. Asami returned the kiss out of instinct more than anything and looked back in confusion as Krista pulled away. 

 

“Whoever she is, she’s a fool. Who could deny you… um…?” The bartender fumbled, not knowing Asami’s name.

 

“Asami.” They both blushed at the realization of just how anonymous their situation was.

 

“Asami.” Krista smiled, erasing the awkwardness as she tasted Asami’s name. “Like I said. She’s a fool.”

 

She finished closing her shirt and Asami stepped away. “Wait.” Krista tugged her back, grabbing her hand. “I know this is probably a long shot but, would you still be up for that drink?”

 

Asami hesitated. She should be, she wanted to be. The woman in front of her would have easily washed her worries away a few weeks ago, but tonight? She didn’t stand a chance. It almost added salt to the wound that Krista seemed to just get it.

 

Before she could respond, Krista nodded in understanding. She gave Asami a kind smile and squeezed her hand. “Don’t worry. I still think I got a pretty good deal.” She smirked and Asami couldn’t help but chuckle sadly. Then, instead of letting go, she raised shy eyes to meet Asami’s. “But. Um. How about a kiss for the road?”

 

The request wasn’t expected, and neither was the warm smile that Asami felt spreading across her face. In any other situation she would have loved to spend more time with this person and she kicked herself again for being too tied up in Korra to let herself be happy, even for one night. 

 

Asami nodded and closed the distance between them, bringing their lips together softly. This was a warmer, kinder, gentler kiss and it brought Asami a bit of the comfort she’d been seeking to begin with. She almost let herself believe she could be convinced to go on a date with this person until she realized that she was picturing Korra behind her closed eyes, gently tugging her lips between hers. 

 

They pulled back and smiled at each other. Krista looked slightly flushed and she bit her lip softly. “A damned fool.” The bartender muttered as she turned to open the door and let Asami out into the real world.

 

**

 

I’m such an asshole. Korra cursed herself as she stealthily unlocked the door to the hotel room, intent on not waking Asami if she were here. And asleep. Maybe she wouldn’t be here. Shit, that would make Korra feel so much worse. Or maybe she’d be awake and they would have to talk. Also too terrifying for Korra to think about. I just hope she’s asleep.

 

Korra tiptoed into the dark room, carrying the boots she’d removed before entering. She breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of Asami’s sleeping form tucked under the covers. Korra noted how Asami faced away from the center of the bed. Away from where Korra would end up and opposite of how she lain when they’d napped earlier that afternoon. The slow rise and fall of her shoulders suggested deep sleep and Korra sighed again. 

 

She went to the bathroom to remove her make-up and brush her teeth, locking the door behind her in case Asami woke up to use the restroom. Glaring at herself in the mirror, she squeezed the countertop until her knuckles went white and her fingers stung from the pressure.

 

Korra’s chest burned with the conflict roiling within her, shredding her emotions into tatters that floated across her mind before being torn away and ripped up again. Guilt singed the pit of her stomach for having lost control and almost cheating on Kuvira. Frustration rumbled at the back of her throat for still feeling loyal to the girlfriend who had been treating her so poorly that she would have begun thinking poorly of herself if not for Asami. 

 

Asami. Anguish cut off the air to her lungs at the idea of having led her on so far. Every cell in Korra’s body had wanted to keep going, to lose herself completely in everything Asami had offered so willingly.

 

Korra had taken what she felt comfortable with and then ran, leaving Asami alone to deal with the fallout. More guilt. She squeezed the countertop again, shaking her head violently at her own selfishness. She shouldn’t have let herself get so caught up. If she’d held on to a shred of self-control, she might still have her friend. But damn. How could she have controlled herself after all that?

 

Desire surged within her in bitter answer to the memories replaying in her head. Half-dressed Asami getting ready in nothing but jeans and that revealing bra. Asami’s eyes boring into her through the mirror. Her skin, celestially soft against Korra’s fingers as she zipped her up. Alll the little ways Asami had responded to Korra’s touch. 

 

How overpoweringly stunning she looked tonight. The way Asami danced and how extraordinary those movements felt against Korra’s hands, hips, legs, and chest. Her lips. How she bit them and how sumptuously they yielded to Korra’s fingers. Mostly her eyes and how they’d begged, pleaded for Korra to take what Asami said was hers.

 

Gahhh! She shook her head again, fighting the heat rising within her. That text message broke Korra’s heart. Korra had hurt Asami enough that she decided to leave and ensure she was unconscious before Korra got back. She didn’t want to see Korra again tonight; that much was clear. I am such an asshole. The rest of the night blurred in her memory as she’d drowned her turmoil in alcohol and incessant, borderline rude, teasing of Kai and Jinora. 

 

Forcing down the bile she felt rising in her stomach, she went through the motions of getting ready for bed. She undressed, changing into a sports bra and remembering wistfully the playful conversation she’d had with Asami about her pajama choices. It felt like an eternity ago. 

 

She tossed her clothes lightly on the dresser, not bothering to put them away, and sat on her side of the bed. Taking a long look at Asami, Korra considered the option of waking her up so they could talk. Perhaps Korra could apologize and maybe beg her to still be friends. Except she knew that if Asami looked at her with anything more than cool neutrality, she’d cave. Her self-control was frayed and torn enough that if Asami so much as looked at her, lust would take over. 

 

Her brain rudely decided to play out that fantasy in her mind for a few seconds before Korra clutched at her head and shook away the tempting image of pulling Asami against her under the covers. Argh! Stop! 

 

Better to let her sleep.

 

Korra slipped beneath the sheets and lay on her back, staring blankly at the ceiling. Asami stirred beside her and she tensed, hoping against hope the engineer wouldn’t awaken. Asami hummed softly and released an adorably sweet murmur before settling back into stillness. Korra sighed. She wanted to hold her. The small, vulnerable sound had wiped sex from her mind; she wanted to wrap her arms around Asami and kiss her shoulder and apologize and squeeze her until Asami felt close again.

 

To torture herself and reacquaint herself with reality, Korra forced herself to think of Kuvira. Of how Kuvira had held her throughout her recovery and how she’d lended Korra her strength to get through the most difficult days. She made herself remember their beginnings and what she loved about her girlfriend so she could focus less on Asami and more on the conversation she needed to have with Kuvira tomorrow. Eventually, sleep took her from that limbo; laying in a bed miles away from the woman she had, but inches from the woman she wanted.

 

Chapter Text

Korra awoke to Asami sitting beside her on the bed, shaking her gently. She nearly lept out of her skin, instantly recalling the night before, all the lines they’d crossed and almost crossed, Asami’s rapid departure, and Korra’s own restless sleep. After all that, there was no way Asami should be sitting this close to her, staring at her this softly, or expressing this much tenderness as she shook Korra awake. Is this a dream?

 

She must have said it out loud because Asami’s melodic laugh answered her before her soothing voice said, “No, not a dream.”

 

“Oh…” Korra murmured, rubbing the sleep from her eyes as she sat up. Asami withdrew her hand from Korra’s arm and placed lightly in her own lap.

 

“It’s almost time to check out.” Asami explained sweetly. “I wanted to let you sleep as long as possible. Not sure what time you guys got back last night.” You are an angel.

 

Asami’s eyes darted sideways just briefly as she mentioned last night and Korra’s heart sank. What were you expecting, Korra? A blank slate? You don’t deserve that.

 

“Anyway,” Asami shifted, inching slightly away. “I’m already packed. I took your clothes out of the drawers to make it easier for you to pack. Hope you don’t mind.”

 

“That’s okay. Thanks.” Korra muttered, still shaken by the absurd kindness. 

 

“We have about half an hour before check-out.” The engineer made to stand but Korra reached for her arm and stopped her, pulling her back down to sit on the bed.

 

“Asami, wait.” The phrase echoed in her mind from the night before and she saw Asami’s subtle cringe at the memory. She fought through the lump in her throat to say something, anything, and her hand fell weakly from Asami’s arm. She brought it to her lap and stared intently at the lines in her palm. “I-I’m sorry.”

 

“Korra.” The firm tone drew Korra’s eyes up to Asami’s stormy gaze. “I’m sorry.” 

 

What?! No. You should not be the one—

 

“I am.” Asami doubled down at the incredulous look Korra must have given her. “I crossed a line and put you in an impossible position.” You did no such thing. “It was unfair and inconsiderate of me.” Not at all! I was the one that— “I won’t let you apologize for something I did. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

 

God. The finality in Asami’s voice left little room for argument. Korra wanted to scream at her that none of this was her fault, that Korra was the sorry one, and that she absolutely wanted all of that to happen again; in a different universe or a different time perhaps. Except her tongue wasn’t cooperating and her brain didn’t seem to want to help. I am such an asshole.

 

She searched Asami’s eyes for any hint of the openness and honesty she’d had unlimited access to over the last few months and found only steel. No… She reached out for Asami’s wrist, unwilling to give up so easily. She tugged gently and tucked her hands around Asami’s, breathing against the tightness in her chest at the sight of their joined hands before raising her eyes again.

 

Korra caught a glimpse of softness peeking through the icy shell and clung to it as if her life depended on it. She let her anguish show as she whispered to Asami’s green, green eyes. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry too.” 

 

She meant it. And she knew there was so much more she wanted to say but it just… would never be enough. The shell cracked a bit further and Korra squeezed Asami’s hand, begging her to come back, even if she just pretended for Korra’s sake. 

 

Asami’s eyebrows drew together and the protective layer in her eyes shattered, revealing a depth of sorrow that chilled Korra to the bone. Geez. I did that, didn’t I? Her heart twisted into a nauseating knot and she felt tears sting her sleep lidded eyes. I don’t deserve you. 

 

But please don’t go.

 

She felt a reciprocating squeeze between her hands. A different layer replaced the sadness, something less profound but much less distressing than the steel she’d encountered a second ago. Warmth, fondness, acceptance. “Okay.” Asami nodded quietly. She stood up and smiled softly, leaving Korra feeling like she’d just put a bandaid over a gunshot wound.

 

**

 

Unfair. It was unfair how Korra could suck her in like that. Every time Asami tried to create distance, protect herself, Korra looked at her with those eyes, overflowing with emotion that stirred the depths of her heart, and Asami fell apart. I’m so hopeless.

 

She took a minute to compose herself once Korra had retreated to the bathroom to shower. She’d taken things too far last night and, to preserve whatever fragments might be left of her friendship with Korra, she needed to be on her best behavior. It didn’t matter that she knew now how much Korra reciprocated her attraction. It didn’t matter that even after crossing so many lines, Korra still looked at her with as much adoration as she had before. Nope; Asami needed to stand her ground in the friend zone. It didn’t have to be for long. She’d move back to New York in just over a week and no longer have to face this daily torture. Just hang in there. Asami let herself ignore that saying goodbye would be just as excruciating.

 

Admittedly, it was also excruciating to watch Korra smile broadly and kiss Kuvira chastely when the four of them picked her up from the airport. They’d driven down from Whistler together and would drive back with Kuvira in tow. Kai, sweetheart that he was, offered to sit up front with Asami so ‘the lovebirds could enjoy some cuddle time in the back seat.’ Ugh.

 

“The new Stallion?” Kuvira asked, an appreciative fluctuation belying genuine interest. Asami hated the alluring raspiness in her voice. 

 

“Yes.” Asami answered politely. Be nice. Be nice.

 

“I’ve been considering buying one of these. Very capable vehicle. Are they already out on the market?” That was the first time she could remember ever hearing Kuvira elaborate.

 

Asami, more smug than she probably should have been, smiled a sweet but venomous smile. “Not yet. Perks of the job.” She started the car and revved the engine for emphasis. And for her own comfort. Her baby always made her feel a little better.

 

They took off, Asami speeding more than she had reason to, half to show off and half to get herself out of this situation as rapidly as possible. Jinora suggested another game to pass the time. This one involved naming three things from a randomly assigned category in five seconds or less. Surprisingly challenging, actually.

 

Kuvira did not err once. On each of her turns, she dispassionately listed her three items without hesitation. Every. Single. Time. It drove Asami insane. She focused entirely too hard on doing the same in her own internal self-proclaimed competition. The tally she’d kept in her head was even until someone complained.  

 

“You guys are no fun.” Korra whined from the back seat. “The whole point is for this to be hard.

 

“Yeah, you two are making us look like idiots.” Kai teased. Asami could imagine Kuvira’s face, either smug self-satisfaction or blank indifference. Either way, extra irritating.

 

Asami did her best to smile and tease back, as playfully as her white knuckled grip on the steering wheel would allow. “Maybe you should pick harder categories.” She said, wiggling her eyebrows at Kai. 

 

Kai furrowed his brow and began stroking his chin strap as he contemplated his options. “Oh I know!” Jinora piped up. “Kuvira, you ready?”

 

“Of course.” So confident. So infuriating.

 

“Alright. Words that have no rhyme. Go!”

 

“Orange. Purple.” Kuvira paused to think. Yes! “And… month.” Boo. Korra was right. This was no fun.

 

“Damnit.” Jinora cursed quietly. “I almost had you.”

 

You know. Month almost rhymes with cunt. Asami chuckled to herself at the crude thought. 

 

“Oh I got one!” Korra said excitedly. “Asami, you ready?”

 

“Sure.” Alright Sato, let’s do this.

 

“Breeds of horses. Go!”

 

“Oh honey. Mustang, Clydesdale, Andalusian.” She answered in two seconds flat. 

 

“What? HOW?!” Korra groaned.

 

“You’d be surprised how much that gets talked about in the boardroom.” Asami shrugged, very pleased indeed. “We named this vehicle a Stallion for goodness sake.”

 

Everyone laughed, including Kuvira, and Asami smiled genuinely for the first time all morning. Soon enough, the car fell silent as the partiers from yesterday evening gave in to their lack of sleep. Kai nodded off beside her and through the rearview mirror she noticed Korra, eyes closed, resting her head on Kuvira’s shoulder. Kuvira stared impassively out the window, eyes cool and indifferent. Asami clenched her jaw and tightened her grip on the steering wheel, trying her best not to think about how little Kuvira deserved the woman beside her. Drive, Sato. Just a week to go.

 

**

 

She waved to the taillights as Asami drove away. Kai and Jinora hugged her and Kuvira both before heading off to Kai’s place for the rest of the weekend. Jinora had considerately planned on steering clear of their apartment until Tuesday so Kuvira and Korra could enjoy some privacy.

 

Korra sighed heavily. Yes, privacy would be good. Though her body craved the familiar physical comforts of Kuvira’s arms, hands, and body, she knew she couldn’t let herself relax until they talked. Asami’s advice rang in her mind, ‘you need to make your feelings clear.’ Korra still hadn’t worked out what she wanted out of the conversation. But she could start by being honest about how Kuvira had made her feel.

 

They stepped into the apartment and Korra missed Naga instantly. Maybe she could convince Kuvira to come along and pick her up from Tenzin’s after dinner. Korra dumped her bag on the floor and turned to her girlfriend. “Beer?” She offered hopefully.

 

“Sure.” Kuvira said as she hung up her coat.

 

As Korra handed her the open bottle, Kuvira took the words Korra had planned for after dinner straight out of her mouth. “We need to talk, Korra.”

 

Korra blinked back in bewilderment, thrown by having her own conversation starter turned on her. “I, uh, okay. Yeah,” she nodded. “We do need to talk.” Straight to it then.

 

“Alright.” Kuvira cleared her throat and stood facing Korra in what looked no less threatening than an at-ease soldier stance. Not the least bit alarming. “I’m not going to tiptoe around this.” She paused and exhaled roughly. “This isn’t working. We are not working.”

 

Korra’s eyebrows nearly hit her hairline. She had fully prepared herself to do a lot of convincing, expecting Kuvira to be blissfully unaware that Korra was unhappy with her. “Um. Yeah. I… completely agree, actually.”

 

One of Kuvira’s eyebrows twitched and the corner of her mouth curled upward slightly. “Well, this is going to be much easier than I thought. We both agree then. It’s over.”

 

She must not have heard that right. Korra cleared her throat and tried to ignore the thundering in her ears. “I’m sorry. What?”  

 

“It’s over, Korra.” Kuvira said matter-of-factly. As if she weren’t throwing a hand grenade in Korra’s face. “I came here expecting you to resist, but you said you agree. I’m glad we’re on the same page.”

 

“No no no no no. Hang on a second.” Korra shook her head vigorously. “I said I agreed things weren’t working. Not that I wanted to stop working on them altogether!” Her volume increased as her eyes widened and she stared at Kuvira in disbelief. “W-what are you… you don’t even want to try?”

 

“I’ve been trying, Korra.”

 

“BULLSHIT!” Yep, yelling came next. “You have not put an ounce of effort into our relationship for months, Kuvira.” Korra spat. “I know, because that’s what I wanted to talk to you about today. You’ve been ignoring me, constantly canceling our plans, and generally so disinterested that I feel like I don’t even have a girlfriend anymore!”

 

All Kuvira did was sigh. She looked exasperated. Like it was beneath her to address Korra’s petulance. It fueled the fire at the pit of Korra’s stomach and she kept her voice raised.

 

“I wanted to talk.” Korra paused to let the venom she felt flooding her throat drip into her voice. “Even after you spent months treating me like no more than an inconvenience, I came here to talk to you. I didn’t just assume our relationship was over!” Korra threw her hands up and collapsed on the couch. Beer forgotten, she raked shaky fingers through her hair and clenched her eyes shut.

 

She had had her doubts about wanting their relationship to continue. But it had never occurred to her to just decide it was over without even consulting her partner. Because who would do that? She’d wanted to talk things through, take Kuvira’s temperature, share her doubts, and hopefully find some common ground from which to decide things together. Even if that decision was to end it. 

 

This completely blindsided her. The lack of consideration was astounding. It was getting hard to breathe. Tears burned at her eyes and she couldn’t understand why she felt so goddamn hot all of a sudden.

 

“Why?” Korra asked in the direction of her knees. Tightening her jaw, she looked up at her girlfriend—she shouldn’t still call her that, should she?—letting her tears well further until Kuvira blurred into a blob of blue and green. “Why, K? I know why I was unhappy. But you made it impossible for me to know what was going on with you. What happened?”

 

Kuvira sighed again and walked over to where Korra sat. She lowered herself onto the coffee table opposite Korra and rested her elbows on her knees. As Korra wiped at her eyes with the heels of her hands, she noticed Kuvira looked less put together than she had a minute ago. Her grey-green eyes had softened from their hard indifference and she seemed almost apologetic. A shadow of the Kuvira that Korra had fallen in love with. Better than the stranger she’d been speaking to before. 

 

“I’m sorry for being so absent, Korra.” She spoke softly but kept her voice even, controlled. The sudden insignificance of the apology Korra had wanted for months struck her hard and she laughed bitterly. “But, if you must know why, it’s rather simple.” Kuvira sighed again, “I’m not in love with you anymore.”

 

Korra tried to feel surprised, or offended, or hurt even. The feelings didn’t come. For whatever reason, the statement evoked a whole lot of nothing. What could someone say to that? ‘But I still love you.’ Korra cringed at the thought, realizing with gut-wrenching certainty that it wouldn’t be true if she said it. When had that happened?

 

And if it were true, why did this sting so much?

 

“When?” Korra asked weakly. “Why?” She paused as Kuvira’s eyebrows wrinkled together and took a breath before asking what she truly feared. It came out barely above a whisper. “What did I do wrong?”

 

Kuvira didn’t answer. 

 

“I need to know, K!” Korra raised her voice again. She grew frustrated at the deafening silence. She wanted an answer. Anything was better than not knowing what was wrong with her, what she’d done to deserve this abrupt upheaval of their once mutual commitment.

 

“Was it the distance?” Korra began to offer reasons, each a little more unreasonable than the next. Maybe it would jog Kuvira’s memory. “The fact that I’m not training anymore? Becoming an instructor instead of living up to all your expectations? Was I too clingy? Did I want too much from you? Sex got boring? WHAT WAS IT?!”

 

Kuvira clenched her jaw and huffed out a breath. “No.” She said. “It wasn’t any of that. Even though I do think you’re wasting your talent on this fruitless instructing pursuit.”

 

Korra ground her teeth against the jab but swallowed her resentment in favor of obtaining an answer. “Then what?!”

 

Another exhale. This time measured, short. “I fell in love with someone else.”

 

Korra’s vision went black. She blinked away the darkness as she processed the words. Somewhere deep in the back of her consciousness a tiny voice said, ‘how ironic.’ She didn’t have the presence to understand it right now. There was too much roiling within her, bubbling just short of a tipping point.

 

“Jesus fuck, Kuvira.” Korra muttered. She felt numb. “D-did you… h-have you….” Korra puffed out a breath to give herself a chance. “Did you act on it?”

 

“Are you asking if I slept with him?” Kuvira clarified so bluntly that Korra winced. Him.  

 

“I am.”

 

“Do you really want to know?” She sounded distant, removed.

 

“You did, didn’t you?” Korra scoffed, a hollow joyless sound.

 

“Yes.”

 

Betrayal. That’s why this hurt so much. She might not be in love with Kuvira anymore—and hell, she had no idea when that had happened—but the deception hit home. It occurred to her that’s what she’d been feeling this whole time. Only now she knew why. Now she could name it. Naming it didn’t help one bit.

 

Though she felt herself beginning to shake, Korra managed to keep her voice down. When she heard herself she was shocked to hear more disappointment than anger in her voice. “H-how long?” Her own fingers startled her as they pinched the bridge of her nose. 

 

“That’s not going to help.” Kuvira tried to dismiss the question with a sharp shake of her head. Korra wasn't having it.

 

“I don’t give a fuck about helpful right now.” Korra bit back. “I want to know how long you’ve been going behind my back. How long I’ve been acting a fool trying to keep us alive while you gallivanted around with limp-dick, whoever he is.”

 

The insult did the trick. Kuvira’s nostrils flared and she snarled an answer. Not what Korra expected to hear. “About as long as you’ve been fucking that pretty little CEO of yours.”

 

The numbness liquefied into boiling, burning rage. “WHAT?!” Korra realized only later that she’d stood up as she shouted.

 

Kuvira rose as well. “You heard me right. I’ve been with Baatar probably for about as long as you’ve been cheating on me with Miss Future Industries.”

 

Wave after wave of thoughts about Asami crashed in her mind. Moment after moment where she’d wanted to make a move, reach for her, hold her, kiss her, be with her. But never once had Korra given in. She’d come close, but each and every time she’d found her restraint and clung to it hard enough to make the right decision. It dawned on her she could’ve made the wrong decision and it wouldn’t have made one bit of difference. The irony was agonizing.

 

Korra laughed a loud, bitter, hollow laugh. “You have no idea what you’re talking about, do you?” She asked, voice thick with spite. “Asami has nothing to do with this. I haven’t touched her.” That was mostly true. “Actually, she’s been a really good friend to me. The irony is that she actually gave me advice about working things out with you. Can you believe that?” Korra kept laughing. She felt absolutely insane, mad and blind with betrayal and anger.

 

Kuvira looked like she’d been slapped. Korra drank in the sight, itching to inflict a little pain. “Oh my god, you really believed I was cheating on you? You wanted me to be, didn’t you?” Korra asked maliciously. She shook her head and laughed maniacally. “It makes sense. You wanted me to be cheating to excuse your own behavior. Well, you’re out of luck, Kuvira.”

 

Korra took a step towards her ex-girlfriend and brought her nose inches from her face. “This is all you. You broke us. You gave up on us. Not me. Not Asami.” The next words Korra enunciated slowly, accentuating them as menace laced her voice. “So don’t you dare bring her into this.”

 

Kuvira smirked derisively and Korra’s anger flared again. “You might not have touched her. But it sure seems like you wanted to.”

 

You’re despicable. “So what if I did, K? So what if I had a thousand opportunities with her to do what you did? What matters is that I didn’t. Despite how much I wanted it.” There was an admission Korra had never said aloud before. “Despite how easily I could have taken it, I didn’t. I put our relationship first.”

 

She got no response. Just another huff of arrogant air. Korra had to get away from her. She was burning up and felt she’d make some poor choices if she stood too close to Kuvira any longer. She stalked to the kitchen and gripped the countertop, digging her fingers into it until they stung and she dug harder. The pain brought her enough air to climb down from the heights of her outrage. She took a deep breath and ground her teeth together.

 

“We’re on the same page now, Kuvira.” Korra said quietly. “It’s over. There’s nothing left to work on. No love, no trust, nothing. So go. Leave.” She turned, leveling tear-filled resentment on the woman that had held her heart for so long. “But you’ll leave knowing that you’re the one who gave up.”

 

“Stop acting like you’re still invested, Korra.” Kuvira spat. “I can read you like a book. You didn’t even blink when I said I didn’t love you anymore. You barely reacted when I told you I’ve been with someone else. The only thing that riled you up was when I mentioned Asami. Get over yourself. You haven’t been in this either. If you haven’t fucked her yet, then that’s on you.” Korra bristled at how casually Kuvira threw away the notion of being with Asami. She heard herself growl as Kuvira continued. “Maybe now that you don’t have something to hide behind anymore you’ll admit to yourself that you haven’t been interested in me or our relationship for ages.”

 

“You know what, K? You’re right. I don’t love you anymore. I don’t even know when or why I stopped. But I still respected you enough to operate within the commitment we had made. I trusted you to do the same and you threw it in my face.” Korra released a long violent breath before saying the only thing she had left. “ Fuck you, Kuvira. You don’t get to leave today feeling like you did the right thing.”

 

“Fine.” Kuvira said, stiffening. “Whatever it takes.” She walked to the door and neatly draped her coat over her arm before picking up her bag. “As long as it’s clear: we’re done.”

 

“Crystal fucking clear.” Korra responded and Kuvira nodded coldly. Before Kuvira could leave, Korra stopped her. “Do you have a place to stay until Tuesday?” She asked roughly. “I’m pissed and I probably shouldn’t care, but I’m not going to leave you out in the cold. I can go somewhere else if you need a place to sleep.”

 

“I’ve got a hotel reservation. And I fly out tomorrow.” Kuvira said curtly. “Goodbye, Korra. When you like, there are a few boxes of your things for you to retrieve from my apartment.” She opened the door and left. 

 

Korra stood there, shocked mostly by the reservation. She’d planned this? Down to the sleeping arrangements? Damn her. Korra wanted to scream. She wanted to stomp around and break things. She took a few minutes to do just that, tearing up a pizza box she’d found and finding it infuriatingly unsatisfying. Neighbors probably think I’m crazy. After she finished, she still felt like garbage. Goddamnit!

 

Once the rage subsided, sadness took its place. Fear at the newness of her life now that Kuvira was no longer in it. Regret at having not seen any of this sooner. Pain, hurt, and a complete sense of loss filled her chest. She felt alone. So bitterly alone.

 

Overwhelmed and bleary-eyed, Korra reached for her phone. It rang god knows how many times before she gave up on Jinora. She tried Kai, to cover all her bases. Still nothing. She sighed and caved, texting the only person in the world that could actually make her feel safe. The first person she’d thought of and the last person from whom she had any right to expect anything.

 

Korra [6:27pm]

Hey. Can I see you?

 

Chapter Text

Asami read the message between bites of dinner. Hm. Korra was supposed to be with Kuvira right now. Ugh. She shook her head. This is getting out of hand. Going out and getting a little handsy while drunk before regaining control was one thing. An inappropriate, friendship-taxing thing. Texting while Korra was with her girlfriend was entirely too much. 

 

Asami [18:32]

I don’t think that’s a good idea.

 

**

 

Korra’s heart broke harder than she thought possible in one day. 

 

Korra [6:32pm]

Please?

 

**

 

Something’s wrong. That much was obvious. Korra never pleaded. What the hell happened? Asami pushed her dinner aside, no longer hungry, and glared at her phone while her mind wrapped itself around the possibilities. Still unwilling to give in to her aching heart, she texted back.

 

Asami [18:33]

What’s wrong?

 

Not two seconds later came the confirmation.

 

Korra [18:33]

Kuvira left.

 

Asami swallowed her pride and called.

 

**

 

“Hi.” Korra answered meekly. 

 

“Korra. What happened?” Asami sounded concerned, caring. Invested. It made Korra feel less empty.

 

“I-It’s over.” The words tore out of her with a heaving sigh. They felt strangely familiar on her tongue.

 

“Oh, Korra. I’m so sorry.” Her voice radiated tenderness. You’re too good to me.

 

“Listen,” Korra began sheepishly, “I know this is way too much to ask but—”

 

“You name it.” Asami said resolutely, confidently. Devotedly.

 

Another sigh. “Jinora’s with Kai and they’re not picking up… and you’re the only one I’ve ever really talked to about this and… I’m just… I really need a friend tonight.” She paused and figured she should add something. “I’m really sorry about this.”

 

Asami dismissed her apology with a huff. “Don’t be sorry.” I should be. This isn’t fair to you. “I can be there in fifteen minutes. Wine or weed?”

 

Korra laughed. Asami knew exactly what to say. Except for one thing. “Actually… would you mind if I came to you? Being here is… honestly it’s driving me crazy.”

 

“Sure.” Everything about that word was soft and welcoming and Korra wanted to drown in that honeyed voice and forget this whole night ever happened. “Come over whenever.”

 

“Okay. I’m leaving now.” Korra said quickly.

 

“Okay. Have you eaten yet?” Gosh, Asami. Korra’s chest tightened at the unbelievable and undeserved attentiveness.

 

“I-I’m not even sure I can…” Korra answered truthfully.

 

“Don’t worry, then. Come on over and if you get hungry I’ll make you something.” Asami said sweetly. “See you soon.”

 

Korra hung up and stared blankly at her phone for a few seconds before grabbing her coat and stepping out the door. She shot Jinora a quick text to tell her where she’d be.

 

Fifteen minutes later she was sobbing into Asami’s shoulder, letting everything her heart could muster crash over her. Asami held her quietly through the waves of anger, betrayal, fear, remorse, and disbelief until she had nothing left to feel. Korra clung to Asami’s shirt for minutes after the tears dried out, too weak to retreat from the warmest, safest home she’d had all day. Asami stood strong, steadfast and supportive, smoothing a soothing hand over Korra’s back as she wracked against her, gasping for air.

 

**

 

They hadn’t made it past the foyer. Korra crumbled against her before Asami had even closed the door. Oh dear.

 

Her heart seized. Korra was too good to deserve this. Too kind and openhearted and entirely too golden for the person that had done this to her. Asami tried to stem the furious tide of vengefulness that rose in her throat at the thought of Kuvira’s smug, impassive face.

 

When Korra’s grip loosened on the back of her tank top and her breathing marginally evened out, Asami pressed her cheek against Korra’s temple and said gently, “Do you want to come inside now?”

 

Korra laughed into her neck, a choked wet sound amidst the tears that drenched Asami’s skin, but a small brightness nonetheless. Asami’s resultant smile pressed her cheeks against Korra's face. “Okay.” The word spoken into her was more felt than heard. Asami suppressed her body’s inevitable response to Korra’s lips, considering it a success that she contained her reaction to a mere shiver. Don’t.

 

She eased Korra back by her shoulders and ducked to catch her gaze. Red-rimmed, watery eyes met hers, big and blue and hurting. The vice over Asam’s heart twisted tighter. She clenched her jaw against a very strong urge to crush anyone who ever made Korra feel this way. A second urge, more powerful, compelled Asami to do everything she could to take Korra’s pain away. At least… anything that might allow her to walk away with her own heart still somewhat intact. 

 

Asami exhaled softly, vacillating between tugging Korra close again and walking them into the house. She couldn’t bear the idea of not reassuring Korra somehow that she was in safe hands. Gingerly, Asami reached for Korra’s chin and tugged it down towards her. She tipped her head up and pressed her lips softly to her forehead. Korra leaned into her and sighed. Asami felt Korra’s eyebrows scrunch together under her lips. She pulled back and draped an arm over Korra’s shoulders to guide her to the couch. “Let’s go.”

 

Korra’s eyebrows hitched skyward when she spotted the spread on the coffee table. Sniffling, she couldn’t help but jostle Asami a bit as she reached for a tissue. “Always think of everything, don’t you?” She blew her nose.

 

“Always.” Asami affirmed, holding out the trash can she’d brought from the bathroom.

 

“So, what have we here?” Korra sounded more alive as she collapsed onto the couch and scanned the buffet Asami had laid out. A bag of popcorn and another of pretzels. A stack of local take-out menus. Tissues. A bottle of wine. The jar of edibles. A bottle of whiskey. An ice cream scoop (the ice cream patiently awaited them in the freezer). And a printed list of all the Disney Channel movies available on her streaming services. 

 

Korra reached for the paper and grinned up at Asami. “I don’t even know what to say… Thank you. I definitely don’t deserve this.” Her eyes welled with moisture again and Asami was about to dismiss the self-deprecating comment when Korra shook away her tears and muttered in hushed awe, “You’re incredible, ‘Sami.”

 

Asami blushed and swiftly sat down to disguise it. “Nah, this is break-up 101. Down to the favorite movies.”

 

Reading over the list, Korra chuckled. “I haven’t even seen half of these.” She looked back at Asami, eyes glistening with gratitude and appreciation, azure as could be in the dimmer light of the living room. Her eyes flicked down to Asami’s neck, still wet from Korra’s tears. “Oh geez, I made a mess.” 

 

She reached quickly for the tissue box and snagged one. Before Asami could protest, Korra held her still with a hand on her shoulder while the other wiped away the moisture from her neck and collarbone. Asami swallowed hard and fought to keep her expression neutral, railing against her body for reacting so readily to Korra’s touch. Oh gosh, please don’t take this anywhere. I don’t think I have it in me to resist you...

 

Mercifully, Korra finished her task and removed her hands as innocently and swiftly as she’d put them there. “You hungry?” Asami asked, barreling past the moment as rapidly as she could.

 

“No.” Korra shook her head and looked down at her lap. “Still feeling a little queasy.”

 

“That’s okay. We’ll just have to get you high later so you get the munchies and eat.” Asami winked and Korra grinned. It wasn’t her normal crooked one. This one was straight and shallow and Asami hated how superficial it felt. “Korra.”

 

“Yeah?” Her eyes seemed distant now. Asami reached forward and grabbed her hand. Sometimes contact helped. She received a feeble squeeze in return.

 

“Do you want to talk about it or forget about it?”

 

“I…” Korra hesitated, sincerely considering her answer. “I think I might cry again if I talk about it.”

 

Asami nudged the tissue box. “That’s perfectly alright. It’s also alright if you don’t want to talk at all.”

 

“I just… don’t even know how to feel.” Korra started and Asami shifted, adjusting herself until she sat cross-legged on the couch, directing her full attention to her friend. “It’s so overwhelming.”

 

Korra leaned back, threw her head against the couch cushions, and stared unseeing at the ceiling. “I’ve been with her for five years. My entire life after the accident has been with her. I just… it’s going to take a lot of getting used to.”

 

“It will. It always does. But you’ll get there.” Asami said confidently. She had so many questions. A conflagration of protective outrage burned in her chest. But she kept herself steady and contained, locking it all away. Korra had to lead. She’d share what she would and Asami would ask for no more.

 

“You know what’s scary?” Korra turned her head. Asami realized when they made eye contact that she still held Korra’s hand.

 

“What?”

 

“I didn’t love her anymore.” Korra said, straight into Asami’s eyes.

 

Asami’s throat went a little dry and she swallowed thickly. “W-why is that scary?”

 

“So many reasons.” Korra breathed out heavily, returning her gaze to the ceiling. “Mostly because I didn’t realize it. I couldn’t even tell you when I stopped. I have no idea how long I went on in that relationship without being in love.”

 

“D-does it help at all? That you weren’t in love anymore?” Asami ventured after a long pause.

 

“That’s the other scary bit. It doesn’t.” Korra scoffed. “I mean. Maybe it does. I guess the cheating would be more devastating if I still loved her.”

 

What?! Asami nearly choked on her incredulity. “She cheated?!” Her mind reeled, jumping between the horrid memories of Mako’s betrayal and how she’d told Korra herself that Kuvira probably wasn’t being unfaithful. I am such an idiot.

 

“Oh. Yeah.” Korra faced her again and this time her voice cracked. “She’s in love with someone else, she said. Some guy. Named Batman or something.”

 

Had Korra made a joke? Asami was seeing too much red to acknowledge it. In the back of her mind she wondered if she was rich enough to hire an accountant who might discreetly wire a payment to a contract assassin. 

 

“Korra.” Anguish filled her voice and her soul as she relived in double the betrayal she had experienced so many years ago. “That’s horrible. I’m so sorry.” She squeezed Korra’s hand and tried not to crush it in her indignation.

 

“I think that’s what hurts. The deception. How long it went on for.” Korra closed her eyes and the motion pushed a few tears down her cheeks. “I just can’t help the feeling that it’s… my fault somehow. That something I did pushed her away or that I wasn’t good enough or—”

 

“No.” Asami said firmly. “Korra, no.” She shook her head roughly. “Look at me.” When Asami had the full attention of Korra’s afflicted, anxious eyes she bore into them with all the intensity what she felt. “None of this is your fault. Don’t let yourself fall into that trap. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

 

She watched the protest grow in Korra’s eyes and saw her eyebrows draw together as her gaze darted sideways to the ceiling. Korra didn’t need to voice her argument. Asami knew she was thinking of their night in Vancouver. She refused to consider the option that Korra was thinking of any time before that. Too messy. Yesterday was the only time they’d gotten close to… anything. It devastated her that their almost mistake made Korra feel like she deserved to be cheated on. 

 

“Listen to me.” Asami took a deep breath and steeled her nerves in preparation to address the topic she’d been hoping to avoid. “Yesterday night wasn’t… the most circumspect.” 

 

Korra winced and Asami pressed on, forcing herself through to her point. “But it in no way does it mean that you deserve the way Kuvira treated you. You are a good person. A great person, if you ask me. You care. You cared enough to stop yourself from hurting Kuvira in exactly the way she ended up hurting you. You need to understand that you did nothing to deserve this.”

 

“Maybe not to her but you—”

 

“Korra stop.” She knew where Korra was headed and knew she couldn’t bear it. Her own pain had no place in this conversation. Tonight her sole purpose was to support Korra. For that, she would willingly set herself aside. “You didn’t deserve it. I won’t let you argue otherwise.” Asami said vehemently. 

 

Korra’s eyes pleaded with her to let go of her conviction, to grant her a little blame, but Asami refused. She’d personally experienced the suffocation of blaming herself for another person’s dishonesty. It was awful and unnecessary and wrong. With all her heart she wanted to protect Korra from the ravages of that black, spiraling well of self-doubt. Eventually, Korra’s eyes softened. Asami watched Korra yield to her assertion, tears staining the lovely blue once again. They spilled over a second later.

 

Asami released her hand and extended the tissue box towards her. Korra took one and held it, unused, in the hand resting on the couch.

 

“I-I don’t know how things got this bad. I almost wish I could pinpoint it to understand but I just… can’t. We were really good at first, if you can believe it. Moved each other forward, looked out for each other… She might not have given me that feeling of belonging, but we trusted each other. At least at some point.”

 

“She didn’t make you feel that way?” Asami asked, disbelieving. 

 

“I mean I don’t think so… Not that I can remember. But it was so long ago. I remember the excitement, and how amazing she was with me while I recovered. I don’t remember feeling any sense of permanence with her, she just mostly pulled me into life, into living. And I had fun. We had fun. That’s what I remember mainly, being grateful for her support and having fun together. Who knows, maybe when the fun died there was nothing left for either of us?”

 

“That doesn’t excuse her behavior.” The engineer asserted. “How did you put it yesterday? She was a ‘royal dick.’” Was it really only twenty-four hours ago that they’d been in that hotel room in Vancouver?

 

Korra laughed, again too hollow for Asami’s liking. “I’m feeling so many things…. I can barely keep track.” She sounded so broken, so small. 

 

Korra took a shaky breath and kept talking, eyes closed, voice wavering. “Part of me is relieved I’m not dealing with this weight on my shoulders anymore, you know?” Asami nodded, though Korra couldn’t see. “But then all the other parts of me are just… running around in a panic trying to wrap my head around everything that happened and everything that needs to happen.”

 

“Yeah.” 

 

“I guess I feel… lost.” Korra muttered sadly at the ceiling. Asami’s entire soul ached to hold her, to erase everything that had ever hurt her.

 

Unable to help herself, Asami reached forward and brushed a lock of hair out of Korra’s face, tucking it behind her ear. “It’s okay to not know what’s coming. Sometimes we have to take it day by day. Eventually, piece by piece, things will fall into place and before you know it you’ll be found again.” 

 

Her hand stayed by Korra’s head as she spoke and she absentmindedly started smoothing her thumb over Korra’s temple. Asami only caught the slip when Korra closed her eyes and hummed softly in appreciation. She almost tore herself away but the serene enjoyment in Korra’s face kept her riveted in place, breath held. 

 

In a startling moment of clarity, Asami realized she might be permitted to take a few new liberties to ease Korra’s grief tonight. A little extra hurt can’t kill me now. She drew her proverbial line in the sand and scooted her toes right up against it. Beyond that boundary lay everything Asami had ever dreamed of with Korra. On this side of it, Asami allowed herself the temptation of offering comfort with her touch.

 

Might as well. Letting her thumb continue its work, she brought her other fingers up and threaded them gently into Korra’s hair. Immediately, she received an encouraging murmur of contentment. She scratched softly at Korra’s scalp, exactly the way she remembered, until Korra spoke up, sounding dazed.

 

“That feels wonderful.”

 

Asami smiled tenderly as she played with Korra’s hair. “When I was little, my mother used to do this to make me feel better.” She sighed deeply at the memory and dropped her head sideways to rest against the couch. 

 

“Your mom was a genius.” Korra drawled with her eyes closed and Asami chuckled.

 

“I certainly thought so. I remember once I snuck into my father’s workshop when he wasn’t looking.” Korra made a small sound, a monosyllabic laugh that she was clearly too comfortable to put any real effort into. Asami smiled at her. “Somehow I got into his tool box and cut my hand on a putty knife.” The next sound Korra hummed was the vocal embodiment of a pout and Asami smiled harder. “I must have gone running to my mother because the next thing I remember is her holding me in her lap, stroking my hair like this to get me to stop crying, while my father bandaged me up. I think I was maybe four.”

 

“Little Asami, the menace. Adorable.” Korra muttered as her mouth curled upward into a sweet smile. 

 

Her eyes remained closed as she faded into the sensation of Asami’s fingers trailing through her hair. Out of sight, Asami indulged, letting her eyes wander affectionately over Korra’s features. They lingered on her curved lashes, clumped and darkened by drying tears, then followed the gentle curve of her nose and its inviting slope to her sorrow-reddened lips. Asami’s eyes traced the path of her slackened jaw to where it lifted to her ears and where her skin disappeared beneath the chocolate tendrils wrapped silkily around Asami’s fingers. She smiled, seeing Korra’s expression relax at last, no longer drawn tight with the anguish that had felt so palpable moments ago. 

 

Asami was floored by the knowledge that she’d produced such serenity. She knew that no matter how it might cleave her, she belonged nowhere but here, tending to Korra, handling her heart with utmost care, and cherishing the chance to touch her with the reverence she deserved.  Asami reveled in the intimacy of sliding her hand among those chestnut locks. They were thick and smooth and, though her previous fantasies of burying her hands in Korra’s hair lived in a much different context, Asami wouldn't trade this moment for the world. 

 

“You know a good movie about being lost and found again?” Asami whispered after a few entranced minutes.

 

“Hm?” Korra responded distantly, floating in the comfort of Asami’s caresses. Asami smiled.

 

“Finding Nemo.”

 

Korra’s eyes flew open and she turned her head into Asami’s hand. The motion left her cheek all but cradled by Asami’s palm and she froze for a panicked second before she saw the child-like excitement in Korra’s eyes. “Asami,” she gasped. “I love that movie.” I know.

 

Asami smiled again. “Would you like to watch it?”

 

“Hell yes I would!” Korra sat up and Asami’s hand instantly felt cold. “But first. Give me a gummy.” Korra made grabby hands at the coffee table. “This movie is magical. It’s magical-er when you’re high.” 

 

Asami laughed and handed her the jar of edibles. Korra popped one quickly on her tongue and held another up to Asami’s mouth. Oh. God. Okay. Asami fought to prevent her lips from touching Korra’s fingertips as she took the candy delicately and mostly succeeded, emotional wreckage notwithstanding. Korra’s uncontainable eagerness to start the movie urged Asami to move on from the intimate gesture and resume her focus on keeping Korra distracted.

 

In a minute the film was queued up and Korra had wrapped herself in one of the blankets. Asami threw the other over her legs and turned to the TV. They sat comfortably beside each other, knees knocking every so often and shoulders bumping together whenever they laughed. They snickered and gasped and mulled over the deeper meanings in the story and Asami praised Korra heavily for suggesting the marijuana that helped them unearth such intense understandings. Korra laughed heartily and reminded her that they would forget all about the significance of what they’d discovered in the morning. They had to pause the viewing until they stopped laughing.

 

Asami used the break to order them a pizza and, lost in conversation, they both jumped when the doorbell rang for their delivery. Korra ate eagerly and Asami counted it as another victory for the evening. They sustained an in depth discussion ‘in whale’ about their pizza for almost five full minutes until Korra ended it abruptly by falling sideways in a fit of giggles. She wound up gasping for air with her head in Asami’s lap. 

 

The engineer had no time to second guess the situation because Korra instantly decided to continue watching the movie just like this. She adjusted herself fully onto her side, facing the TV, and wiggled her head into a comfortable position on Asami’s leg. Before Asami had figured out what to do with her hands, now deprived of a spot in her own lap, Korra had grabbed the remote and clicked play.

 

After flailing quietly for a few seconds, Asami discovered she could keep one arm on the sofa’s armrest and drape the other over the back of the couch. Good plan. They finished the film in the same position, Korra’s warmth and musings about this film being equally enjoyable sideways helped to quell Asami’s panic along the way. 

 

As the credits rolled over the screen, Korra let out a heaving, shaky sigh.

 

Asami went immediately on alert. She dropped her hand from the couch and placed it softly on Korra’s shoulder, offering quiet reassurance.

 

“It makes me sad.” Korra said simply, answering the unasked question.

 

“The movie? Why?”

 

“Yeah.” Asami felt Korra’s deep breath as her shoulder rose and fell under her hand. “Because… Marlin gave up. He was so broken and defeated that his only way forward was to make peace with his emptiness and move on. I know it works out in the end, but that part is so heartbreaking.” 

 

Korra’s jaw tightened and Asami felt the movement against her thigh. “I-I don't want to feel empty anymore ‘Sami. I just want to be whole. I’m so tired of feeling like everything is so wrong all the time. I… I’ve been feeling that way for so long and I just hate that it feels like it won’t get better.” Her voice cracked on a dry sob and Asami’s hand found its way into her hair again, instinctively resuming the soothing caress that had been so effective a few hours ago. Oh honey...

 

Korra’s sounds shifted instantly from stifled sniffles to a surprised hum of appreciation and Asami smiled. She’d thought the sensation of Korra’s hair between her fingers was wonderful before, but now, with her senses heightened by the cannabis, she was blown away by how extraordinary Korra felt to the touch. She marveled at the way Korra’s tension melted away in her hands.

 

“You know….” Asami mused, “Nemo didn’t give up.”

 

“Mm-wha?” Korra muttered, once again dazed and distracted by Asami’s attention. God, I love that I can do that to you.

 

“Nemo didn’t lose hope or dwell on how he was lost, he just… kept swimming.” She chuckled at the reference and felt Korra’s laugh in her fingertips. “All I’m saying is… don’t give up. Maybe focus on the journey and you’ll be found before you know it.”

 

Korra exhaled softly and nodded. She lay quietly on Asami’s lap for a few minutes as Asami continued weaving fingers through her hair, scratching gently and smiling at the peaceful sighs of contentment she produced. Every so often, her fingertips unintentionally brushed the shell of Korra’s ear and Asami noticed the catch in Korra’s breath each and every time. She wondered how it might relax or escalate things if she let herself linger there a little longer. Before she gathered the courage to try, Korra turned over. 

 

She lay face up, eyes still closed, and Asami adjusted, gently guiding all of Korra’s hair back from her face. She let her fingers wander through it at the crown of her head. “‘Sami?”

 

“Hm?” Asami answered, rather dazed herself, consumed by the softness enveloping her hands.

 

“How do you say my name in Spanish?”

 

“Pfff what?” She laughed at the unanticipated shift.

 

“How do you say ‘Korra’ in Spanish?”

 

“Korra.” Asami responded with a chuckle. “Why?”

 

Korra peeked her eyes halfway open and Asami caught a breathtaking glimpse of blue before they closed again. “I like the way it sounds.” She explained and then tried it herself. “Korra.”  

 

Asami laughed at the adorable frown that followed as Korra grumbled her dissatisfaction with the sound she’d produced. “Not the same. Let me hear it again.”

 

Smiling, fingers trailing absently over Korra’s scalp, Asami repeated. “Korra.”

 

Korra tried again and pouted. “It sounds better when you say it.”

 

“Haha well don’t take it too personally. I have a little more practice. You have to roll the ‘R’ for a touch longer and the ‘A’ has to sound more like an ‘ah’ than an ‘uh.’”

 

“Hmm...” Asami watched in affectionate amusement as Korra pinched her eyebrows together and worked out the pronunciation slowly. “‘Ko-rrrr-ahhh.’”

 

She chuckled, giving Korra’s head a few vigorous pats in congratulations. “There you go. That was better.”

 

“I still like it more when you say it.” She pouted sweetly again and Asami watched her own hands as they brushed stray locks of Korra’s hair around her ear. She traced a finger lightly over the faded scar on Korra’s hairline that she’d noticed once, ages ago. Korra made another soft sound. “It’s from the accident,” she muttered with her eyes closed. “They told me it was from the ice.”

 

“Hm.” Asami murmured, running her thumb over the scar again. She quelled the sudden urge to bend down and kiss Korra’s forehead where the mark disappeared into her hair. 

 

“I don’t even remember hitting my head.” Asami had to will herself to behave again. She redirected her focus from Korra’s scar to her own fingertips, compelling them to deliver the best massage she knew how. She dragged her nails lightly over Korra’s scalp—that always felt so divine—and received a pleasant rumble in response. “You’re gonna put me to sleep,” Korra purred.

 

“That’s okay.” Asami answered softly. She redoubled her efforts, so fixated on her ministrations and so thoroughly captivated by all the ways Korra unwound for her, that she was almost startled when Korra spoke again. 

 

“Will you talk to me?” Korra's words slurred together drowsily. 

 

“Sure. About what?”

 

“Anything…” Korra sounded on the verge of sleep. “Tell me a story in Spanish or something.”

 

Asami laughed. “In Spanish? You won’t understand anything.”

 

“Is whatever… say whatever you want. It just always sounds so nice…” Korra’s head lolled sideways against Asami’s hands.

 

“You want me to just say your name over and over again, then?” Asami joked.

 

“Pshh no that’s boring.” Korra laughed and rocked her head side to side. “No. Mm just talk about whatever’s on your mind. I just… like listening to your voice.” She sighed and pushed her head into Asami’s fingers to remind them to keep moving. As if she hadn’t just said something heartrending.

 

Smiling softly at Korra’s insistence, Asami resumed her petting while attempting to control the thudding in her chest at Korra’s plain admission of affection. If Korra weren’t inebriated and halfway into slumber, Asami might have let herself read into it more. She had to stop herself from spiraling as it was. Whatever’s on my mind… you’re on my mind Korra. All the time. I can’t talk about you to you.

 

“So?” Korra persisted. “You’re pretty quiet up there.” She eased one eye open to peer up at Asami with a crooked smile and Asami’s heart overflowed.

 

“I’m, uh, trying to think of what to say…” Asami stalled, more than a little shook.

 

“Anything.” Korra muttered and her eye closed again.

 

Anything? She looked down at Korra, practically putty in her hands, and marveled at how perfect it felt to have her like this. She thought of all the ways that Korra had opened up for her, communicated without words how much Asami mattered. In the reaches of her mind Asami let herself remember the fire she’d seen in those blue eyes the night before and all the joy and fondness with which they glowed for Asami for weeks beforehand. For a few moments, suspended in this limbo removed just far enough from reality, Asami’s resolve faltered. Maybe for these surreal minutes when she held Korra and they were together, alone, happy for an instant, she could let herself feel what she wanted to lose herself to. Fine.

 

“Ya sé…” Asami began in Spanish. Korra hummed and smiled with her eyes closed. “If you really want to know what I’m thinking, it’s simple. I think about you.”

 

Asami let her head fall backwards against the couch and flitted her eyes across the ceiling as her mind chose how to express what tore her apart. Protected by the veil of another language, she realized she could speak the truth. A heavy sigh escaped her and she began in earnest, never once ceasing her fingers’ motions through Korra’s hair. “I think about you… all the time. I think about spending the day with you, about making excuses to see you, I think about making you laugh, about holding you, about kissing you….” 

 

It felt good to get this off her chest. Freeing, in a hopeless, disconsolate way. It was a mercy Korra didn’t understand. “I ask myself how I got to this point. How I could have fallen so completely for someone that I barely know. But, the truth is, I feel like you know me better than anyone. And that you allow me to know you better than anyone. I adore that. I adore knowing that there are things that you show only to me. Korra,” Asami felt Korra stir softly at the mention of her name, “you can’t imagine how much I want you. How much I wish I could call you mine. It terrifies me to say it but… I love you.”

 

Asami let the words linger in the air and listened for their reverberations in the otherwise silent room. At some point she’d closed her eyes and the confession flowed out of her effortlessly once she’d begun. If she’d been looking down, she might have noticed Korra’s eyes shoot open at the words ‘te amo.’

 

She shook her head sadly at the ceiling. “But it’s futile to want you that way. You aren’t mine. Knowing that tears me apart but there isn’t anything I can do about it. We don’t have any time left. And it’s such a shame because somehow I just know that being with you could change… everything. You feel… important. And it breaks my heart to have to let you go.”  

 

Asami felt a familiar tingling in her nose and soon tears threatened hot against her eyelids. She urgently willed them back. Korra couldn’t be allowed to see this. While she might not understand the words, she’d recognize Asami upset. She wrestled her emotions into submission and decided this was enough. Enough for tonight and, well, it would have to be enough for forever. The thought drove a spike of grief through her heart and she took another few moments to gather herself.

 

Asami released a long, laden breath and finally looked down at Korra, whose head had fallen limp in her hands. Asami hadn’t stopped her caresses and it seemed her ministrations had put Korra to sleep. Her mouth hung slightly open and she breathed deeply, completely and utterly dead to the world. Asami drew her thumb tenderly across Korra’s forehead, indulging her forlorn heartache for a few more seconds. Her knuckles brushed lightly over Korra’s cheek and she hovered her fingertips over her lips for a moment, imagining what they might feel like against her skin. 

 

I love you. I’m the only fool here.  

 

She sighed resignedly and moved her hand away, back up to where Korra had allowed it.

 

As Asami pieced together her composure and prepared never to let herself think those words again, her phone began to buzz. Startled, she leapt forward to answer it before the noise woke Korra. 

 

“Asami, hi.” Jinora’s concerned voice greeted her as soon as she’d said ‘hello.’ “I’m so glad you picked up. I got Korra’s text saying what happened. Is she with you? Is she okay? Should I come over?”

 

“She’s here. She’s doing better,” Asami said quietly. She glanced down at the person cradled in her lap and hoped the surge of tenderness she felt didn’t slip into her voice. “She’s asleep.”

 

Jinora let out an audible sigh. “Oh thank god. I saw her missed calls and got so worried. I’m glad she went to you.” Me too. “Did she eat? She tends to not eat when she’s upset.”

 

“We did eat. Munchies and pizza are always a good combination.”

 

“Asami you are the greatest. Thank you for taking care of her.”

 

“It was no problem at all. I’m happy to help. I’m just sorry she’s going through all this.”

 

“Yeah… it’s unbelievable. I can’t believe Kuvira would do that. Korra deserves better.”

 

“Agreed.” Asami said quickly.

 

“Are you sure there’s nothing I can do to help?” Jinora offered kindly.

 

“Probably not tonight, now that she’s out. I’ll put her in one of the guestrooms here for the night.” Asami paused as an idea formed in her head. “But now that you mention it, there is something that you and Kai could help with tomorrow…”

 

Asami kept her fingers tenderly tucked in Korra’s hair as she discussed the details of her plan with Jinora. She looked down at Korra and smiled, unable to contain the swell in her chest at the sight of her so content under her touch. She told herself tomorrow she could put her walls back up and protect herself again. For whatever was left of the evening, maybe she could enjoy caring for Korra as if she were hers.

Chapter Text

Korra’s head tingled. She faded into consciousness half expecting to find Asami’s hands still on her, soothing and comforting. Her sleep-addled brain wondered how else she could have slept so soundly, if not with Asami beside her, easing her worries away. Korra felt rested. And, despite everything, she felt better. She was almost disappointed Asami wasn’t there to see her languid smile when she awoke.

 

Burritoing herself within the piles of down, Korra peered at her surroundings from beneath the comforter that was tucked all the way up to her nose. The guest room was familiar; the one she’d always used to change after skiing or before using the hot tub. She and Asami jokingly called it ‘Korra’s room’ though she’d never slept in it until last night. Which was a travesty, because this must have been the warmest, most comfortable bed she’d ever had the pleasure of knowing.

 

When did we come upstairs? She had been so physically exhausted and emotionally spent. Between that and the edibles, Korra was certain she’d been no livelier than a zombie after the movie ended. She vaguely remembered crawling into bed, then smiled at the memory of Asami’s lips bidding her a gentle goodnight against her forehead. 

 

Korra backtracked through their evening, dredging up fleeting images of Asami coaxing her from the couch, guiding her up the stairs with a warm arm draped over her shoulders, handing her a toothbrush, and offering some sweats to sleep in. Korra’s eyes widened when she remembered tossing the clothes dramatically aside and reminding Asami that these were her pajamas as she stripped to a bra and underwear. Oh god. She glanced at the armchair and, sure enough, the clothes Asami had brought lay unworn and strewn haphazardly on the cushion. Well that’s embarrassing.

 

She thought back, had she done anything else embarrassing last night? Asking Asami to speak to her in Spanish probably ranked high on the list of mildly mortifying moments. Though Korra barely remembered what happened afterward; the magic Asami’s hands spun in her hair had robbed her of most conscious thought. 

 

Oh wait. Groaning in shame, Korra recalled that she’d been laying in Asami’s lap when that happened. She cringed at her own selfishness. God I am such an asshole.

 

Too blinded by her own need for comfort, Korra had neglected to consider Asami in all this. She remembered all too well the crushing sadness she’d spotted in Asami’s normally soft green eyes yesterday morning. After Asami had apologized for her behavior at the club. As if she’d been the one to do anything wrong. The anguish Korra caused had gnawed at her conscience, but only until it wasn’t convenient anymore. Until Korra was in too much of her own pain to resist running to the person she’d hurt, seeking solace. Such. An. Asshole.

 

I need to apologize. Asami deserved more consideration, more attentiveness, more devotion. She definitely didn’t deserve Korra walking all over her feelings like this. She deserved… to have what she wanted, not have it dangled in front of her time and time again, just out of reach. 

 

Guilt overcame her and Korra buried her head as deep as the pillow would allow, cursing herself for her self-indulgence. How could she face Asami today? After she’d taken her for granted so shamefully? Korra might still be shaken by the break-up but now, bathing in the afterglow of the comforts that Asami had provided so unconditionally, the turmoil from Kuvira paled in comparison to the thought of having taken advantage of Asami’s care. I need to fix this. She needed to grant Asami the consideration she deserved and beg her forgiveness, maybe even grovel.

 

Korra threw off the covers, ignoring the bitter cold that awaited her beyond the wondrous down cocoon. She pulled on the fresh clothes Asami had brought last night, pausing to appreciate the smell of her laundry detergent and finding that it fit perfectly into place within the cocktail of comforting scents that Korra recognized as uniquely Asami. She brushed her teeth swiftly and grimaced at herself in the mirror before giving up on looking decent and bolting down the stairs. Do it now before you lose your nerve.

 

“Good morning, sunshine.” Asami said playfully as Korra unsubtly barreled her way into the kitchen. The brightness in her voice stopped Korra short. “I see you gave up on your standard pajamas. Too cold?”

 

“I, uh… thought this might be more appropriate.” Korra countered the tease without thinking and Asami gave her a cheeky ‘hm’ as she smiled. Korra grinned impishly back at her for two full seconds before remembering why she’d come thundering down here in the first place.

 

“Asami, listen.” Korra took a step closer and glanced down at the safety of the floor before forcing herself to make eye contact with those sparkling, happy, green eyes. Sheesh that makes this so much harder. Okay. “I really need to apologize to you.”

 

Asami’s eyebrows drew together in confusion and Korra pressed on, clinging to her momentum in the hope it might carry her through what she needed to say. “It wasn’t fair of me to come here yesterday and act… the way I did. Not after Friday night and how I treated you. Not after how amazing you’ve been. How amazing you are. I don’t deserve all of this kindness from you. You’ve been nothing but considerate and caring and altogether wonderful and I feel like I’m taking you for granted and it isn’t fair. I don’t want to keep hurting you. I’m so sorry, Asami.” Korra finished with a tremendous sigh and ripped her eyes away as soon as she could. She’d fumbled, but at least it was out there.

 

“Can I talk now?” Asami asked after a few moments. 

 

“Um, yeah.” Korra glanced back up.

 

Asami exhaled softly. “First of all, you standing there worried that you’re taking me for granted tells me irrefutably that you are, in fact, not taking me for granted. Do you see how that works?”

 

“I… guess so…” Korra answered, bewildered. Did Asami not believe her?

 

“Second of all, I have no idea what you’re referring to about ‘acting the way you did.’ Nothing about yesterday was out of line. Nothing about yesterday made me uncomfortable or hurt me in any way.” That didn’t seem entirely true, based on the way Asami crossed her arms defensively and darted her eyes sideways. Korra opened her mouth to challenge her but snapped it shut a second later. Better not to call her out for lying. Not when Korra was the one trying to apologize.

 

“Third of all,” Asami closed her eyes and sighed. “Yes, Friday got a little out of hand. But the thing that bothered me most about it was that it made me feel like I’d lost you.” What? That sounded honest. But incomplete. 

 

Asami continued before Korra could ask. “I felt like after Friday there was... a rift between us and it… it made me feel awful.” That part was true. Painfully, agonizingly true. “So, when you came here yesterday and trusted me the way you did, I was so glad, Korra. Despite the situation, I was relieved that you let me be there for you. It felt like us again, and that actually made me feel a whole lot better. I got my friend back and that’s what I wanted. Please don’t apologize for that. And please don’t say that you don’t deserve to be treated with kindness and care. That’s more upsetting to me than anything that happened last night or in Vancouver.”

 

“I…” There was something missing. Something Asami wasn’t saying. Korra felt it everywhere, in everything from the stillness of the air to the flutter in Asami’s voice. Something in her blurry memories of last night nagged her that she already knew what it was but somehow it wouldn’t quite come into focus. When her brain refused to provide the missing piece, she crumpled her eyebrows together and searched Asami for the answer. The vibrant jade betrayed nothing but warmth, kindness, and calm. After a few seconds, Korra decided to let it go.

 

If she couldn’t read it, couldn’t see it, then either Asami was too good at hiding or there wasn’t anything to find. “Are you sure?”

 

“Completely.” Asami said softly. Her eyes softened in turn and Korra found herself melting at the sight. She, too, ached to have that easy closeness back. Wanting anything more could complicate things and, though Korra could admit she was more than interested, she set aside that enticing idea in favor of the soothing familiarity with which Asami welcomed her.

 

She smiled broadly and walked bodily into Asami’s arms. Korra tucked herself against Asami’s chest and rested her cheek on the shoulder closest to her, sighing deeply when she felt Asami return the embrace. She might have put aside the thought of more, but Korra was still wholly addicted to Asami’s touch. And to having her close. And to how good she smelled always.

 

“You give the greatest hugs.” She said candidly and Asami laughed into her hair. The vibration warmed Korra from inside out.

 

“You are quite welcome.” The engineer said dryly as they separated and Korra’s crooked smile found its way across her face. Then, more cautiously, Asami asked, “How are you feeling today?”

 

Korra hadn’t thought about Kuvira until Asami prompted her, ever so gently. She’d been entirely too preoccupied with mending her relationship with the person here to consider her own hurt at the hands of the person who’d left. With astounding clarity, Korra found she rather preferred it that way. With her focus wrapped up in the people and the joys around her, the pain didn’t feel quite so insurmountable, and the emptiness far less vast. It didn’t escape Korra’s notice (or her intense appreciation) that this was precisely the advice Asami had offered. Naturally, the hurt didn’t disappear—she still felt it, like a dark fog, blown back and confined to swirl menacingly in the reaches of her mind—but at least for now Korra felt hopeful for a way forward.

 

“Actually, I feel a lot better.” She answered with a smile. “I mean, it still feels kind of awful. And I’m so mad at Kuvira I could scream.” A curt nod confirmed that Asami would do much worse than scream with the protective rage burning in her eyes. Korra chuckled and squeezed her hand gently. “But you made me realize that there are other things that make me happy and they have nothing to do with Kuvira. I can focus on those things and it helps.” She took Asami’s eyes in hers and held them with utmost sincerity. “Thank you, ‘Sami. You always find a way to make things right.” Korra fought the urge to throw a chaste kiss on her cheek. Their friendship could probably use a little extra recovery time before she gave in to signs of affection like that. 

 

The bright, proud smile that Asami returned made Korra’s heart jump. That’s how you deserve to feel, ‘Sami. All the time.

 

“That’s good to hear. Because I was worried you wouldn’t want to eat all this breakfast.” Asami gestured to the stove, which Korra just noticed had a pan covering almost every burner. She also immediately registered the heavenly smells floating about that she’d barely been aware of when she stormed in.

 

“Oh my god!” Korra’s eyes widened with anticipation and she shook Asami by the shoulders in her excitement. “I love breakfast.”

 

“I know.” Asami grinned.

 

“And I am so hungry!” Korra beamed, mouth watering at all the different aromas hitting her now that she chose to pay attention. “It smells so good!”

 

Asami laughed heartily and reached for one of two empty plates that waited by the stove. Korra watched eagerly as she scooped on eggs, sausages and hash browns in portions exactly the size Korra loved them: enormous. “Why don’t you stop breathing down my neck and get us some coffee, hm?” Asami teased over her shoulder and Korra shook herself from her feast-fueled reverie and nodded furiously. “Mugs are right above the coffee maker.” Asami directed.

 

In a flash, Korra had served up two steaming cups of coffee and set out the sugar and cream she’d found with Asami’s guidance. She set two places at the table and helped Asami carry everything over before they sat together to eat. Korra dove in ravenously. Apparently the aftermath of emotional turmoil left her hungry. Who knew.

 

“I was going to tell you to eat up, but it doesn’t look like you need any encouragement.” Asami laughed between bites.

 

Korra, mouth barely empty, nodded emphatically. “This is so good, I will need zero help from you to crush this.”

 

“I'm glad you like it!” Asami’s smile brightened the room and Korra’s heart flipped. “We have a big day ahead of us, so a hearty breakfast is important.”

 

“Hm?” Korra gulped down her mouthful. “Whaddya mean?”

 

“You’ll see. Kai and Jinora will be here soon.”

 

Korra put down her fork and eyed Asami suspiciously. “What did you do?”

 

“Nothing you won’t like. I promise.” The engineer said with a wink. For some unknown reason Korra trusted her. She didn’t normally like surprises but with Asami… 

 

“Fine.” Korra shrugged and resumed her thorough enjoyment of her favorite meal of the day.

 

Twenty minutes later, Jinora shoved a bag with Korra’s ski clothes into her arms. “Go change,” her roommate commanded.

 

“We’re going skiing?” Korra looked around at her friends. “Why is that a surprise?”

 

“Just go!” Kai was practically twitching with excitement. Jinora squeezed his hand to settle him down. The two seemed to be dressed already, so Korra and Asami went upstairs and changed. 

 

Kai and Jinora loaded up Asami’s car in the meantime and the four were piled in and on the road in less than five minutes. “Where are we going?” Korra couldn’t help herself.

 

“Hang tight.” Asami grinned at Korra over her shoulder and the gorgeous confident smile nearly knocked the wind out of her. Wow. Had Asami gotten more beautiful overnight or was it just Korra’s imagination? “Almost there now.”

 

At the teaser, Korra began to search frantically out the window for a place she recognized. When she thought she’d figured it out her eyes flew wide open and she swiveled her head incredulously from friend to friend. “No!” She squealed ecstatically. “Are we going heli-skiing?!”

 

“HELL YES WE ARE!” Kai whooped from the back and Korra responded with an equal volume from the passenger seat.

 

“Oh my god this is awesome! I’m so pumped! You guys are amazing! I love you all so much!” Korra exclaimed as she bounced up and down in her seat.

 

“It was all Asami’s idea.” Jinora leaned forward with a smile and patted the engineer’s shoulder. “She wanted to do something special for you today.” The statement froze Korra to her seat. Asami had put this together? For her? Korra had mentioned heli-skiing to her, what, twice? And months ago, at that.

 

Korra turned, wide-eyed and thoroughly blown away, to find Asami pink and smiling bashfully. Her heart felt on the brink exploding out of her chest. “You did this?” Korra asked quietly, too stunned for volume.

 

“I couldn’t have done it without Kai and Jinora.” Asami’s blush faded and her smile grew more self-assures.

 

Jinora shook her head and swatted Asami’s modesty away. “It was all her. We pretty much just told her who to talk to and got to witness how the CEO here gets shit done.”

 

Asami’s cheeks darkened again and Korra felt a lump make itself at home in her throat. Geez, Asami. This woman was incredible. Too divine, too beautiful, and too kind to be a single human being. And here she was, being all of those things just for Korra. Overwhelming couldn’t begin to describe it.

 

“I keep telling you you’re incredible and apparently I don’t even know the half of it…” Korra said reverently, so floored she didn’t care how it sounded.

 

The CEO grew redder as she swung the car into a parking spot. She tried to laugh away Korra’s awed compliment but the sound that came out instead was timid and sweet and altogether adorable. “This, um, is probably most of it.” Asami said awkwardly. Somehow I doubt that.

 

Korra had to force herself to stop gaping long enough to exit the car. She shook her head and reminded herself she was about to cross something big off her bucket list. Maybe focus on that. But, while she was beside herself at the opportunity, Korra could not shake the weight of something so wonderful, something she’d only ever dreamed of, coming entirely from Asami. It felt meaningful, powerful, heavy.

 

Heavy. The exact opposite of the snow they encountered as they brushed fresh tracks over the untouched and inaccessible slopes above the treeline. This was more beautiful than anything she’d ever dreamed. Around each bend, it seemed the entire world lay unfurled before them, white and jagged and endless, with no one else to get in the way. 

 

She made sure to sit beside Asami every time they piled into the helicopter. She held her hand the entirety of each ride, hoping to share through their skin the awe and exhilaration she felt at the breathtaking views of the mountain range. Each time they approached a landing, her grip tightened over Asami’s fingers and she shook their joined hands vigorously, unable to contain her thrill for the infinite blankets of undisturbed white, begging for her skis.

 

“Oh my godddd.” Korra marveled as she turned, painting even, bouncy arcs over a wonderfully sloped face that Kai had expertly selected for this time of day. They stopped at a crest above a lightly gladed stretch of hill. Beyond the trees lay their next rendezvous point. Korra turned to a beaming Asami and grinned. “You having fun?”

 

“Definitely.” The engineer gushed. “Thanks to you. I don’t think I would be enjoying myself if you hadn’t taught me to ski powder properly.”

 

Korra smiled, remembering the day and how monumental it had been for her to jump again. She also vividly remembered Asami, blanketed in snow, lying with her in a tangle after that unexpected leap. She remembered how intently Asami had watched as Korra peeled her goggles away, incapable of resisting her need to find, to have, those green eyes on her. That day she’d felt something charged and weighted as well. 

 

The sound of Jinora turning downhill tugged Korra from her reverie and she dismissed the memory, reminding herself to focus more on the now. “You are quite welcome!” She barked at Asami with a grin. 

 

They began their journey down between the trees. With plenty of space for easy, unhurried turns, Korra found herself seeking a slower pace to enjoy the mystical feel of the glades around them. Asami stopped a ways in front and Korra pulled up just above. “Everything okay?” She asked.

 

“Yes… it’s just… so stunning.” Asami murmured softly as she looked around. The rest of the group had skied ahead and, for the moment, they had the forest to themselves. The solitude and the reverence in Asami’s voice drew Korra’s awareness away from her companion and to their surroundings. She followed Asami’s lead and looked. “It’s dead silent.” Asami whispered.

 

Indeed. The normally muffling effect of falling snow did not exist here. Not where there were no sounds to hush. The flakes fluttering lazily from the sky merely created movement where, Korra realized, there would otherwise be none. Everything around them seemed muted, paused. As if the evergreens themselves were suspended forever in that breathless instant after a long sigh of relief, the quiet moment before the inhale that would suck life and movement back into their lungs.

 

It was eerily enchanting to be allowed in a place such as this. Like foreigners being afforded a forbidden glimpse of something sacred, Korra and Asami watched the floating snow in hushed wonder. This unbelievable stillness, the unequivocal serenity of this tiny sliver of world, imprinted itself on Korra’s soul as a memory she would never forget. 

 

And for this unforgettable experience, she had Asami to thank. For caring for her, for bringing her here, and then, on top of it all, for being the reason that Korra stopped to take it all in and truly live it. Asami had given her this. 

 

And, the more she thought, the more she saw how much Asami had given. This memory belonged to her. This one and so many others—nearly every joyful moment Korra could recall from the last four months seemed to belong to the person standing with her today. Dwarfed by the immensity of the realization, alone with Asami in this oasis, unharmed by the noise of the world, Korra began to comprehend how much she belonged to Asami as well.

 

Her breath faltered. Holding what was left in her lungs, Korra slid a little further downhill and aligned her skis with Asami’s across the slope. Easing forward, she wrapped her arms around Asami from behind. “Thank you for this.” Korra said softly, quietly overflowing. “Thank you for everything.”

 

Asami placed a hand over hers and squeezed her understanding. After a pause, Korra felt Asami tentatively lean back and ever so slightly rest against her. Her heart lurched and it struck her in that instant that she would have a hard time ever letting this woman go. Korra didn’t push the feeling away like she might have days ago. She let it fill her and guide her instead, and she pulled Asami closer. Their skis slipped in the snow and slid downhill a few inches. Korra didn’t loosen her embrace; she balanced for them both and secured Asami against her. Once they steadied a split second later, releasing a jointly held breath, everything between them felt suddenly tenuous and delicately precious. 

 

Korra wondered if she should speak up, concerned her voice might break the spellbinding sanctity of the wordless moment. Reminding herself to live in the now, Korra shared, just above a whisper so as to not disturb the serenity of the forest. “This is so wonderful, Asami. I… I feel like I belong here,” she paused and tightened her arms about Asami’s waist. “With you.”

 

It was silent enough around them that Korra heard Asami’s stifled but sharp exhale. They were pressed close enough together that Korra felt Asami weaken in her arms. And Korra knew what she’d implied well enough to understand the stiffness that blossomed in Asami’s shoulders before she answered in a shaky, defeated voice. “I… Me too, Korra.” 

 

Before Korra could process the reciprocation, Asami shattered the fantasy. “We should probably get moving so the others don’t begin to worry.”

 

“O-Okay.” Korra whispered. She clung to Asami for another second before releasing her. Something heavy indeed.

 

They finished their tour with more of the same. More blankets of virgin snow, more breathtaking views of their even, curved tracks cutting across an otherwise untouched landscape. More heart-stopping glimpses of Asami skiing, smiling, laughing, enchanting everything around her. By the end of the day, Korra was certain she’d be unable to divorce her friendship with Asami from wanting more.

 

The unbridled, effortless joy their relationship ignited in Korra seemed inseparable now from how intensely she craved Asami’s eyes, her touch, her smiles. And this… didn’t feel new, exactly. Just maybe not impossible, not forbidden anymore. All Korra needed was a little time. Time to sort out her own baggage with Kuvira. And time to encourage the flirtations Asami had given her on Friday to hopefully grow into something deeper.

 

She listened to Asami order in Spanish at the hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant they’d reserved for dinner. Again, one of Korra’s favorite places. And again, Asami’s choice. Hearing her order for the table so elegantly, so fluently, stirred in Korra a familiar feeling of comfort and peace. It resurfaced alongside a few more fuzzy images of last night. She smiled at the memory of Asami teaching her how to say her name in Spanish and at hearing her say it once again in the middle of her story. Korra had barely been awake for Asami’s tale and knew she’d be unable to comprehend it but she did remember understanding two small parts. One was her name and the other, shortly thereafter, te amo.

 

Oh.

 

Oh my god.

 

The weight she’d felt underlying all of Asami’s actions today crashed down on her like a ton of bricks. It crushed Korra beneath memories of fleeting glances, coy phrases, tender caresses, lingering hugs, and pointed words. Each and every recollection was thrust out of its neatly guarded location in the back of Korra’s mind and into sharp, unmistakable relief. Suddenly, the piece missing from the puzzle of Asami’s explanation this morning clicked into place. Everything Asami did and said for Korra was borne out of a depth Korra had relegated to the realm of hopeful impossibility. 

 

I am… such a fool. Korra’s eyes refocused and found Asami. She looked new, illuminated by the glow of what Korra had just now pieced together. Korra’s chest practically caved in as the air evaporated from her lungs. She almost laughed at how simple this was. At how radiant Asami seemed, had always been, in Korra’s eyes. How did I miss this? It was well within Korra’s power to give Asami exactly what she wanted, everything she deserved, and to stop dancing around what she knew she felt. And Korra wanted to. She would. Wholeheartedly. All she needed was a little time. 

 

Korra turned, shooting Asami a lopsided smile full of promise and certainty. She finally tuned in to the conversation around her. She was grinning foolishly, giddily when the engineer answered Jinora’s question. “Unfortunately, this is my last week here. I head back to New York next Sunday. I’m really going to miss you guys.”

 

Korra’s smile faltered as her ears thundered with the sound of her hope crumbling around her.

 

Chapter Text

The week flew by.

 

Forlorn and disappointed, Korra had retreated into herself after her magical Sunday with Asami, Kai, and Jinora. The truth, unforgiving and relentless, explained everything. All of a sudden, Korra found herself recalling hundreds of details, dozens of things Asami did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say. It all made sense. And the sensibility of it all was maddening.

 

Of course Asami had reciprocated Korra’s subtle flirtations, reacted to Korra’s touch in so many delicately intoxicating ways, and cared for her with such incomprehensible tenderness. Of course Asami pulled away after Korra got too close, remaining controlled and friendly behind her boundless openness and comfort. Asami, in all her grace, had still managed to be extraordinary for Korra, even while holding back.

 

Of course Asami held herself back. Despite the undeniable push and pull between them, Korra had always been manifestly unavailable. And now that Korra had realized everything, understood everything, wanted everything Asami had kept from her until now… now, Asami was leaving. Of course.

 

It all made so much fucking sense.

 

Korra had spent a good chunk of time stewing and coping as Asami once did, pulling away for sanity’s sake. Except she did it with a fraction of the engineer’s finesse and two days into her self-inflicted deprivation, Asami had reached out with a simple ‘you okay?’ that tore Korra’s heart to shreds. She watched her screen for several minutes as it showed Asami typing and deleting a half dozen different messages before giving up and leaving the loaded question to stand alone.

 

Of course Asami was hurting.

 

After agonizing over those two words for entirely too long, Korra concluded she could at least stop inflicting pain and spend some time with the woman before she was gone. It was a fine line to walk. She couldn’t get too close; the heartbreak on top of Kuvira’s betrayal would absolutely wreck her. But she couldn’t continue being absent. She refused to hurt Asami any more.

 

Problem was, Asami was wholly irresistible. She made Korra want to be wrecked. Korra found herself itching to see her every remaining day. She caught herself reaching for her entirely too frequently. And her heartbeat raced too much at the sight of Asami’s smile for Korra to hold herself at arm’s length.

 

They’d spent what was left of the week sharing everything, practically inseparable. Korra’s heart ached exquisitely when Asami hugged her goodbye in the evenings and lingered for seconds too long. Or when she indulged and let herself rest on Asami’s shoulder during a movie. Korra invited Jinora or Kai as much as made sense to keep a buffer between herself and the stupid decision she really wanted to make. But she kept coming back for more, too addicted to the closeness to shy away from the sweet heartache of having to hold herself back from the woman she cared for. It was a spiral she didn’t want to climb out of.

 

That was how she’d gotten herself through the week and to Asami’s farewell dinner where she now sat, nerves shredded, face drawn, and heart broken. Today everything felt hollow. Asami’s candid smiles and musical laughter did nothing to fill the void growing in Korra’s stomach. She couldn’t bring herself to engage in the revelry, regarding it all from a distance as an absurd pretense to mask the coiling, slithering pain of goodbye. If it helped Asami, fine. But Korra had already fallen victim to the dread and there was nowhere left for her to hide.

 

Uncaring, unseeing, she clung to Asami’s jacket when it was her turn to say farewell. Kai and Jinora had held her sweetly, delivered genuine expressions of friendship and promises of visits. Korra fell apart. She threw herself against Asami and buried her face in her collar. It didn’t matter who saw or what they thought. She fisted her hands and pressed them hard against Asami’s back, doing all she could to hold fast against the onslaught of grief that pushed tears hot against her eyelids. Asami’s hands landed open and soothing behind Korra’s shoulders and she rested her head softly over Korra’s. 

 

...the greatest hugs. You smell so good. God, you feel so good. Can we just stay here?

 

Thoughts and ideas and questions swam in her mind until Asami whispered against her temple, quietly enough for only Korra to hear. “You have no idea how much I'm going to miss you.” Korra felt the waver in her voice and choked back a sob.

 

I do though.

 

She clutched Asami’s coat and held her tighter. Maybe if she squeezed hard enough they’d meld into a single person and Asami wouldn’t leave. 

 

Korra lost track of how long they stayed this way. She’d forgotten about the entire world around her in favor of this fleeting sliver of eternity. A hand on her shoulder, not Asami’s, reminded her there was life to live beyond this embrace. She didn’t want it.

 

“Korra.” Jinora’s sympathetic voice cut through the shelter of Asami’s arms and the hand on her shoulder pressed into her. “Asami has to go.” 

 

No. Korra shook her head, burrowing herself further in the layers of Asami’s clothing. She can stay right here.

 

“I… really should.” Asami’s voice, louder but still strained, gutted her. Yet her hands didn’t move from Korra’s back.

 

“Okay.” Korra murmured reluctantly and peeled herself away, inch by agonizing inch. She didn’t release Asami completely, taking a moment to glance at her eyes before letting go. Perhaps she could catch a glimpse of what Asami felt, what she might not let herself say. She knew she could rely on the gentle green to show her.

 

The truth was heartrending. The barely disguised anguish, verdant and glistening as it tremulously held back a flood of emotion, lanced through Korra’s heart and she threw herself forward again, wrapping her arms over Asami’s shoulders and into another fierce embrace. “I’m sorry.” Korra whispered grievously before forcing herself backwards. 

 

Asami’s expression flashed surprise and grief and longing and Korra nearly broke. They held eye contact for a hopeful second before Asami took a sharp breath, smiled sadly at the three of them, and left.

 

Korra looked after her long after she disappeared and raked her fingers angrily through her hair. She tried not to remember how it felt when Asami did that.

 

A large hand wrapped itself over her shoulder. “Korra… how long have you been in love with her?” Kai asked, more tender than she had ever heard him.

 

Oh god. That’s what this is, isn’t it? Another crippling example of how Korra had made herself an utter fool. She should have known. She wasn’t harboring a crush. She didn’t just want Asami. Korra loved her. More wholly than she’d been able to admit to herself, even now. Verbalizing it, understanding it, crushed her. Because it was so irrevocably, undeniably true. And so very meaningless once Asami walked away. 

 

Korra sighed miserably. No point in hiding anything now. “I don’t know.” She said dejectedly. “Probably longer than I realized.” Looking up dismally at her friends, she sought a little validation. “Was it that obvious?”

 

Jinora stepped forward and smiled softly. “It was pretty clear Kuvira wasn’t the reason you were losing your mind this week.”

 

“Right.” Korra muttered.

 

“But even before that… you were always so happy around her.”

 

“Yeah.” She sighed again. She had been happy. Easily, blissfully, and ignorantly happy.

 

“I…” Jinora’s hesitation made Korra look back up and she furrowed her brow at the sheepishness on her roommate’s face. “I actually thought there was already something going on between you two.”

 

“You what?!” Korra’s eyes went wide and she glanced between her friends, shocked. “There wasn’t! I… why did you think that? And why didn’t you call me out if you thought I was cheating?” Why didn’t you tell me?!

 

“Honestly?” Jinora tilted her head. “Because you finally seemed happy. Kuvira was bringing you nothing but misery. Kuvira probably deserved it in the end, anyway.” Jinora crossed her arms and huffed protectively. Her eyes softened a moment later. “You and Asami just seemed so… connected. It seemed, I don’t know, really right.” She shrugged.

 

“Right?” Korra blinked, mouth dry. She’d never thought about it as right before. 

 

“Yeah.” Kai chimed in. “You two were sorta perfect for each other so we kind of just let it be.”

 

Korra stared at them dumbfounded. Perfect? Why had this never occurred to her?

 

“So you two haven’t…?” Kai ventured.

 

“No!” Korra answered with a groan. She’d nearly yelled with the uncomfortable blend of exasperation and regret gurgling around inside her. “While I was with Kuvira we didn’t. It's not like I didn’t think about it. But we didn’t. And then I had just broken up with Kuvira, so it was too soon. And now she’s leaving so it’s too goddamn late!” She threw her hands up in defeat. 

 

“Too soon?” Jinora asked incredulously. “How could it be too soon if this,” she gestured largely in the direction of Korra’s aching heart, “long before you and Kuvira broke up?”

 

“Ah I don’t know! But it really doesn’t matter anymore.” Korra stared hard at the floor. 

 

“Does she even know?” Her roommate asked.

 

“Know what?” 

 

“That you have feelings for her?” 

 

Korra stopped. That, she had to think about. Korra had never expressly come out and admitted anything to Asami. But she had an absurdly long list of moments and hints and looks that made her heart pound whenever she remembered them. Maybe Asami knew. She knew Korra better than anyone. But then again, if she’d figured it out, she still chose to leave. 

 

“I honestly don’t know. Apparently I wasn’t exactly subtle. But I never said anything either.” Korra explained.

 

“Do you think it would make a difference if she knew?” Jinora suggested.

 

Maybe? “What difference would it make?” Korra retorted. “She can’t stay. It’s not like we have a chance at all. Our lives are… opposites. Telling her is just a recipe for heartbreak.” She dismissed the idea. Asami probably already knew anyway.

 

“From where I stand, you’re heartbroken already.” Jinora challenged. “What do you have to lose?”

 

For the life of her, Korra could not formulate a decent answer.

 

**

 

Asami folded all the blurry clothes left in her closet and shoved them into a blob-shaped suitcase. A stubborn accumulation of tears had remained steadfast in her eyes since she’d left the restaurant, distorting her vision and rendering every task on her list irritatingly more difficult. Every time she shook them away, they ran in tendrils down her cheeks only to replenish just as quickly.

 

She refused to let herself devolve into a sobbing, crying mess. She’d done her best to keep her feelings from Korra at bay, but this last week had tested her to no end. Her chest ached at the memory of last Sunday in the glade, at the quiet significance of that brief intimate moment. Korra’s words had stolen her breath and she’d tried hard to stop herself from overthinking them but damn. She’d almost broken down today seeing Korra’s unchecked anguish at farewell. The whispered apology, sincere and knowing, had ruined her. It was all she could do to stem the tide until she reached the safety of her car.

 

It didn’t matter now. Whatever Korra had said, however close they’d been, it was over. There was no way forward for them, no future to be had. Time to go home. It didn’t matter that she felt she was running away from home. Look forward, Sato.

 

The tears flowed good and steady now. Ugh damn. Remembering never helped. She couldn’t quite make out the shape of her shirts anymore, so she gave up and searched for a tissue. The box was still downstairs and she walked to the living room where she and Korra had left it on the coffee table last week. Pushing away the memory of those hours spent on the couch with her fingers tangled marvelously in Korra’s hair, Asami snatched the box and admitted to herself she should probably take it with her upstairs.

 

A shuffling outside her front door startled her on her way past the foyer. Instantly on alert, she tiptoed closer and checked the deadbolt to make sure it was locked. She noted cynically that if anything were to happen, all she had to protect herself was this tissue box and some long forgotten self-defense classes. Don’t be silly, it’s probably just the mail. You’ve been living in New York too long.

 

Holding her breath and clenching a fist (to what end, she couldn’t say), Asami leaned forward to peer through the door peephole. Oh. 

 

Korra stood on her stoop, staring daggers at her own boots. She alternated between shaking out her hands and clenching them into fists, struggling with something invisible. Asami smiled at the small pout of indecisiveness. So cute. A second later Korra shoved her fists into her pockets and shook her head roughly. She looked apologetically at the door before sighing heavily and turning away to go back to her car, eyes downcast and shoulders slumped. No!

 

Without time to second guess, Asami threw the door open. “Korra?”

 

Korra tensed, startled, and turned slowly around in the driveway, utterly embarrassed. “Er... he-hey Asami.” She waved awkwardly.

 

“What are you doing here?” She bit down the shakiness in her voice.

 

“Uh, it’s nothing, just um, checking in to see if uh, everything’s, um fine.”

 

Asami smiled. Korra was a terrible liar, and Asami found it agonizingly sweet to watch her fumble. I’m going to miss you. She’d spent so much time caught up in the torment of being near Korra that she’d left herself altogether unprepared for the misery of losing her.

 

Her emotions bubbled to the surface again, along with that twisting sinking in her stomach, and her vision blurred. Please not now… Asami shook her head and wiped swiftly at her eyes, subtly trying to dispel any evidence of her emotional state. Korra mustn’t see. If she did, she would surely be her wonderful caring self and offer the open warm comfort that Asami craved, inadvertently piling on to the grief.

 

By the time she blinked back enough to see again, Korra had closed the distance between them in two strides and stood an arm’s length from Asami, concerned and attentive, blue eyes pained and searching. 

 

“Hey…” Korra said softly. Her voice, so excruciatingly soft and cautiously gentle, brought tears flooding back. Asami saw Korra’s eyebrows scrunch together before the world went out of focus again. This time when she blinked, the moisture spilled over. Korra’s warm fingers swiped the tear away before it traveled very far. 

 

Asami nearly fell over at the tenderness and a few more tears followed, completely beyond her control, as her cheek leaned into Korra’s touch of its own accord. “‘Sami…” Korra whispered soulfully, a sound so tentative and strained that it launched Asami’s heart thudding out of her chest. Korra stepped forward, guiding them both inside the house. Strong, resolute arms slid around her, engulfing Asami in a chilly embrace, and a delicate hand guided her head down onto Korra’s shoulder. 

 

“Your coat is really cold,” Asami muttered absently, keeping her arms wound tightly around Korra. She wanted to want to let go, knew she should, but didn’t dare move. 

 

Without breaking the embrace, Korra brought a hand between them to unzip her jacket. As soon as it opened, she grasped Asami’s arms and guided them around her waist along the inside of her coat. Asami sighed at the warmth that welcomed her. Her self-preservation instincts began to falter as the collar of Korra’s coat fell open and Asami’s nose found itself burrowing against Korra’s neck. God Korra, why must you feel this good?

 

“Better?” Korra asked sweetly.

 

Better than anything. A stifled ‘mhm’ was all Asami could manage as she tried to stop her eyes from overflowing again. How could she explain that she hurt more when Korra held her, reminding her of everything she couldn’t have, of all the coldness that awaited her? 

 

More tears came and spilled onto Korra’s shirt. Korra reached up and wiped them away. Stop being so sweet. Korra’s impossible gentleness had Asami crumbling, piece by broken piece, in her arms. She wouldn’t be able to hold on to her resolve for much longer. Korra kissed her forehead and it was all she could do to swallow the whimper that clambered up her throat. I… I can’t take this.  

 

Korra didn’t stop. She kissed her temple, her cheek, her hair, wherever she could reach while Asami fell apart on her shoulder. Asami ached and hurt and shattered with every touch until all she had left was a raw, burning need for Korra’s embrace, her skin, her attention, her love. Somewhere in the sea of tenderness, Asami surrendered. Whatever she felt was Korra’s anyway. She released a trembling breath and with it the last of her composure. Her fingers curled in Korra’s shirt, clutching desperately to her comfort and this ephemeral illusion of peace. Please don’t let go.  

 

The shoulder she lay on shrugged upward and, weak and defeated, Asami picked up her head. Korra’s fingers caught her cheek and brushed the stray tears away. She held Asami’s face in her hands and looked into her earnestly, assuring Asami with that azure gaze that she was here and wasn’t going anywhere. 

 

As Asami’s heart twisted, Korra’s eyes darted down to her lips. Oh. They fixated on Asami’s mouth for a lengthy moment before her fingers slid slowly under Asami’s jaw. She watched Korra’s chest rise and fall with a nervous breath while hers simply stuttered. Light as feathers, Korra’s fingertips beckoned Asami down while she lifted her chin to meet her. Oh god.

 

Korra stopped an agonizing inch away. 

 

Her eyes found Asami’s again. Those eyes, boundless and blue and choked with emotion, begged for permission. ‘You, I want you.’  

 

Asami’s lungs warred against the lump in her throat. She’d fallen to pieces under Korra’s fervent, tender care. She’d thought to let herself drown in the gentleness and postpone her misery for a few fleeting minutes. She hadn’t allowed room to hope for this. She’d completely walled off this overwhelming want in a last-ditch attempt to protect herself. But as she was now, worn and fractured and aching to let go, she had nothing left to cling to. 

 

Yes.  

 

Asami answered with an imperceptible nod and in an instant Korra’s lips were on hers. With a gasp (because no amount of preamble could have prepared her for this), Asami melted into her, molding her mouth, her body, her soul to Korra. Nothing she’d imagined could ever have come close to how right Korra felt. Korra’s lips were soft and pliant against hers and so certain, so real and honest, that Asami whimpered as Korra expressed with her kiss everything her eyes had ever given away.  

 

Breathlessly, Korra retreated, leaning their foreheads against one another. Her hands caressed Asami’s face, slid through her hair and behind her neck where her fingers found purchase and Korra sucked in heaving breath before her voice cracked as she said, “I’m so so sorry.”

 

Asami drew her eyebrows together and her awareness finally expanded enough to realize she was gripping Korra’s waist. She gingerly raised one hand and brushed a stray lock back from Korra’s face, letting her fingers thread softly through her hair. Korra hummed that wonderful little rumble of pleasure and Asami lost her breath again as Korra leaned into her touch. “Why?” She whispered, keeping herself as close as she could.

 

“For not doing this sooner.” Korra said honestly and a laugh borne of joy Asami didn’t know she had escaped her. “And also for doing this at all.” Korra frowned and Asami felt a horrible, unwanted pressure in her chest. “I know it’ll make things harder. But I don’t want you to leave without knowing how I feel. And I know it complicates things and it hurts and I’m so so sorry for hurting you but I just can’t—“ Korra screwed her eyes shut and pressed her forehead into Asami’s. “I can’t hold back anymore. I don’t know how you managed but I just can’t, and I… you need to know that I—”

 

“Korra.” Asami interrupted. She didn’t want to know. It would be better if she didn’t know. She ducked her head and tugged Korra’s bottom lip between hers, losing herself momentarily in the warmth that welcomed her as she begged Korra silently to set their hopelessness aside. She wove her own sorrow between their lips, trying to make Korra understand that she too ached miserably to be with her, to love her wholly. I’m sorry too. Grief gripped her heart as she filled the kiss with her apology. She pulled back with a soft sound and opened her eyes to find Korra dazed, looking up at her through distraught, emotive eyes. 

 

Unable to stay away, Asami crashed their lips together again desperately. Please let me have this. Let me have you. Her hand tangled in Korra’s hair while the other explored with exhilarating freedom the taut muscles of her shoulders. She hummed with delight when Korra’s fingers pressed against the back of her neck to urge her closer. 

 

Her hand found the small of Korra’s back and she pulled hard against it, compelling Korra to close the tiny gap between their hips. Asami gasped at the heat that surged between them the instant they touched. She dragged her nails across the nape of Korra’s neck and traced her tongue tentatively over the swell of her bottom lip. Korra opened up for her with the most encouraging sound. She yielded at Asami’s prompting and trembled in her arms as Asami pressed forward to discover Korra more deeply. 

 

Asami couldn’t help herself. She moaned into the sensations of Korra’s taste, her gentleness, her eagerness. Shakily, she tore herself away and looked intently into those cerulean eyes, pleading for understanding, longing to let herself go. 

 

She pressed their foreheads together again. “Just… be with me tonight. Please.” Her chest tightened and the familiar sting of tears greeted her eyes. “I don’t want to think about the rest.” Asami begged, a waver in her voice and a barely suppressed sob caught in her throat.

 

“‘Sami….” Korra whispered, tracing a thumb across Asami’s cheek. The aching tenderness with which Korra touched her and the staggering ardor in those stunning eyes as she breathed out her name left Asami more plaintive and more impassioned than she’d ever experienced. 

 

“Please Korra.” She pushed their lips urgently together once more, imploring Korra to fall with her. She keened, feeling everything Korra wanted to say through the long, mournful flow of her lips: her regret, her heartbreak, her devotion, her love. Let go with me.  

 

Asami deepened the kiss, letting need suffuse her every movement. When she felt Korra begin to succumb to the insistent press of her lips, she ghosted her mouth over Korra’s neck. Her heart jumped at the prospect of tasting the skin she’d once been so tantalizingly close to. Encouraged by a familiar gasp against her cheek, Asami brushed her lips across the sensitive skin just behind Korra’s jaw, then sighed all of her desire against her ear. “I want you.”

 

Korra drew in a sharp breath and Asami felt tension spread like fire beneath her hands until Korra was practically thrumming in her arms. Korra’s fingertips disappeared from their soft, loving perches around Asami’s face and materialized at Asami’s hips, gripping feverishly. Their lips met again, this time roughly, frantically. Yes.

 

Korra surged forward, forcing Asami backwards until her back found the door. She couldn’t remember closing it. Once she had nowhere to go, Korra pressed against her, exploring hungrily with her tongue and her hips. 

 

Asami moaned, thrilled by this new intensity, relishing the rippling strength of Korra’s wandering hands and muscular thighs. Korra’s lips traveled away, roaming across her jaw and down the column of her neck. They seared Asami’s skin with hot wet kisses, sending shivers down her spine and leaving her throbbing, heaving for air, and clinging to reality. Korra whispered breathlessly against her ear, voice rough with desire, “Asami. You feel so good.”

 

Asami could not formulate words to respond. Instead, she sank her teeth into the soft skin beneath Korra’s jaw, fisted her fingers in her hair and moaned for more. Korra gave. Her hands slid down over Asami’s backside and squeezed, lifting her effortlessly until Asami’s thighs found their way around Korra’s waist and she settled in Korra’s arms, wrapped around her hips. 

 

Tugging on her hair, Asami coaxed Korra out from her place on her neck and kissed her needily, already addicted to the way their lips molded around each other like they belonged nowhere else. Her tongue sought Korra’s tongue as her body sought Korra’s and she rocked her hips desperately against the woman holding her.

 

At her wanton motion, Korra groaned and thrust forward. “Oh god, Asami. Yes.”

 

The contact and pressure against Asami’s center was light but exquisite and Korra’s throaty approval sent her reeling. She gasped her pleasure into Korra’s lips as she rolled her hips again and again. Barely breathing, she pulled back and demanded hoarsely between thirsty kisses, “Take me. Upstairs. Now.”

 

Korra obeyed. They made slow progress on the stairs; each time Korra took a step, Asami lost herself to the extra pressure from Korra’s thighs and the straining muscles in Korra’s back. After several distracted moments spent grinding into each other against the wall of the stairwell, they cleared the landing, Asami a moaning mess and Korra smiling wickedly as she kicked Asami’s bedroom door wide open.

 

They tumbled onto her bed in a tangle of legs, gasps, and kisses. Her once neatly folded clothes were strewn about as Korra hoisted her further up the bed. Asami reveled in Korra’s strength, gripping her arms in delight every time Korra moved her. They paused for a moment when her head finally found the pillow. Korra hovered above her, braced with one hand by Asami’s head while her other arm remained wrapped snugly around her waist. 

 

Korra’s broad lopsided smile, joyously splitting her swollen lips, the desire, and the utter devotion pouring out of her eyes bore a hole right through Asami’s chest. Korra. Her arm unwound itself from Asami’s side and she traced an arc over Asami’s temple, adoringly pushing a loose strand of hair back against the pillow. You’re going to kill me if you keep looking at me like that. Asami’s heart lurched towards the woman above her, threatening to beat itself right out of her body. Korra brushed their noses together with a heart-stopping smile before kissing her again. Asami could not remember ever being kissed so deeply.

 

While their lips danced, Korra’s hand found its way to Asami’s hip and pushed up her shirt experimentally. Asami’s entire body lit up at the exploratory touch. She arched into Korra’s fingertips and moaned her permission into Korra’s mouth, feeling her lover’s self-satisfied smile against her lips. 

 

Korra’s hesitation evaporated. Encouraged by Asami’s increasingly vocal reactions, Korra palmed Asami’s stomach, her waist, and her sides with relish, lifting Asami’s shirt higher as she explored. When Korra’s thumb dipped beneath the underwire of her bra Asami cried out. She’d never been wound so tight, never wanted someone so completely before. Every touch was fire and every new caress propelled her further from reality. I want you everywhere, Korra.

 

She pawed at Korra’s back as they reacquainted themselves with one another, unable to stem the thought that this was how they were always meant to feel together. Her hips rocked upward, seeking Korra’s warmth, and she groaned her disappointment that she had nothing to press against. Korra flashed her a disarming smile and angled her thigh above the torrid heat radiating from Asami’s center. “Yes.” Asami whined and grasped at Korra’s leg. Korra let her have her relief for a mere second before she backed her thigh away. Asami’s protest died on her tongue as Korra leaned down to her ear. 

 

“Not yet...” Korra purred. She kissed down her neck and back up. “You’re mine tonight.”

 

Nothing but a whimper left her mouth as her entire body burned for Korra’s touch. Yes, I am. 

 

**

 

Korra decided that if Asami wouldn’t let her say how she felt, she could just as well show her. It came surprisingly easy as, at each turn, Korra was floored by how absolutely resplendent this woman was. Every detail about her, from the way her body undulated under Korra’s hands to the way her lips nearly paralyzed Korra with their electricity, drove Korra further and further past awe and into utter speechlessness. She had never experienced anything like this before. She’d never wanted to savor someone much, to drown herself in discoveries until all she could think and breathe and feel was the person beneath her.

 

Her hands traveled reverently up Asami’s torso and her breath failed her repeatedly as Asami reacted to her touch. She registered every twitch and every sigh, committing all of Asami to memory as best she could. You’re gorgeous, incredible. She marveled at Asami’s skin prickling under the sparks from her fingertips and Asami’s muscles tensing under the press of her palms. I can’t believe I get to touch you. She wanted more. She needed to feel all of Asami, against her, around her, within her.

 

Korra kissed her way down Asami’s neck and chest, over the curve of her breasts as she undressed her, delighting in the unimaginably soft skin and the small gasps of pleasure she dislodged with her lips. Asami pushed her palms against Korra’s chest, urging her back just far enough to remove Korra’s shirt hastily before fervently pulling Korra back down on top of her. 

 

Korra swooned at the heat of their skin sliding and at Asami’s vocal sighs of appreciation as her hands cascaded over Korra’s bare back and dug into the muscles she discovered.

 

She shrugged off her own bottoms once Asami’s jeans and delicately lacy underwear had made it past her ankles. Another time, Korra might have taken the time to appreciate the glory of Asami in nothing but dark lingerie. But today, the need was too great, too urgent. She paused on her way back up to reach beneath her and unclip her matching bra. Asami didn’t miss a beat, clutching at Korra’s sports bra and discarding it as soon as it came free in her hands.

 

She hovered over Asami, taking her time to slide the straps lightly over her shoulders, kissing the goosebumps that rose in the wake of her fingers. Asami paused her appreciative groping of Korra’s skin only long enough to unloop the straps. Korra tossed the bra aside and bit her lip at the unparalleled perfection that lay naked before her.

 

Finally. Korra delayed for a split second to make sure she could watch Asami’s eyes as she lowered herself on top of her. They fluttered closed with a sigh that seemed to run away from her lips as Korra’s body met hers. Korra couldn’t help her deep, throaty moan at the feel of Asami’s stiffened nipples sliding against her skin. She moved upwards and the tautness of her own breasts was rewarded with tantalizingly warm friction. 

 

It was absolutely divine. Asami was divine. Feeling her like this, totally bare, entirely Korra’s, made Korra’s skin tingle and her heart beat erratically as her mind swam under the onslaught of sensation. Overcome with a debilitating feeling of wholeness, Korra slid her entire body over Asami’s as their lips met, hungry and open and hot. Korra whispered shakily into her ear, cowed by the connection, the completeness of this contact. “Asami. You feel… So. Good.”

 

Asami arched against her, fingers digging, pulling, begging as she rocked her hips into the air between them and gasped in Korra’s ear. “Please, Korra. I need you.” Korra’s thigh obeyed and found its way between Asami’s legs. She shuddered at the overwhelming heat that waited for her there. 

 

“Holy fuck Asami.” Korra muttered in awe as Asami rolled her hips, sliding herself over Korra’s thigh and leaving a hot wet trail of arousal in her wake. Korra blacked out for a moment, blinded by desire. Next thing she knew, she had her mouth wrapped around a pert, pink nipple while she gripped Asami’s thigh and eased her legs apart. Her fingertips dimpled Asami’s skin and she growled. She wanted her. Wanted to feel her, taste her, finish her, have her in every possible way.

 

Luxuriating in Asami writhing beneath her, Korra licked her way down Asami’s abdomen, kissing her navel, then ascending briefly to tease another delightfully stiff nipple before wandering down and hovering her nose over the patch of dark hair above Asami’s core. While Asami whimpered at the tantalizing proximity, Korra’s throat went dry with the realization that Asami’s abundant wetness had found its way into those dark curls as well. “Mm ‘Sami…” She dipped her head and breathed softly over Asami’s swollen, glistening clit. Asami stifled a scream.

 

Korra tore herself sideways and licked the arousal off of Asami’s inner thighs, running her hands slowly over the sensitive skin until Asami keened and clutched at Korra’s hair. “Korra,” Asami demanded. The desperation in her voice sent fire searing through to Korra’s center. “I need you. Now.”

 

Too far gone to deny Asami anything, Korra leaned forward and tasted her, groaning in bliss at the contact. My god you taste so good. She dragged her tongue slowly up Asami’s slit until her engorged bud pulsed needily under her tongue. Asami let out a long, low, addicting sound as she arched her body against the pressure. “Godddd Korra, yes.” Asami moaned and her grip tightened against the back of Korra’s head. Korra felt her own dripping response and ground her hips desperately against the bed. 

 

“Mmm...” Korra couldn’t contain her own pleasure, moaning against Asami’s center, enthralled by the sheer amount of wetness that coated her tongue and the inside of Asami’s thighs, and the exquisite sweetness of her taste. Lost and single-minded, Korra teased and flicked and sucked on the swollen nub until Asami’s words came in gasps and she could no longer suppress high-pitched moans of pleasure. Yes, Asami. Scream for me.

 

Asami bucked her hips against Korra’s mouth, asking for more. Korra raised her head and licked her lips, savoring Asami’s arousal as she smirked. She looked Asami dead in the eyes when she received an incredulous stare for stopping. “I won’t fuck you tell I hear you beg, ‘Sami.” Korra purred. She didn’t look away from those smoldering green eyes, piercing and consumed with desire, as her tongue resumed its long, deliberate strokes. She watched with utmost satisfaction as breathless recognition flashed across Asami’s face.

 

The engineer didn’t hesitate. Her eyes darkened and she bit her lip, holding Korra’s gaze as she complied. “Korra. Please.” Asami whispered desperately. “I need you inside me. Please.” Her words clearly aroused her further because Asami whined and moaned out her last plea while her hips rocked frantically towards Korra’s mouth. Korra laid there frozen, awestruck by the unbelievably sensual sight in front of her, until Asami begged again. “Please, Korra. Fuck me.”

 

God yes. Without further hesitation, Korra slid a finger over Asami’s soaking wet opening before pushing herself inside. Asami welcomed her effortlessly and they moaned together at the wondrous new connection. She barely had two knuckles in when Asami cried out for more. Holy hell. 

 

Soon, Korra had three fingers buried in her, thrusting in time to her canting hips as Asami’s cries lost their meaning. Korra watched, blown away, as Asami, such a beacon of composure, came undone in her hands. Her cheeks flushed, her chest heaving, nipples taut and writhing against the cool air of the room as her perfect lips formed wordless cries of passion. Korra could barely believe she had this vision in the palm of her hand. She clung on to reality, reminding herself this was really happening, as she drove deeper and deeper.

 

She lifted herself above the engineer without stilling her fingers. Her tongue darted over a nipple on its way up but didn’t linger. Korra was on a singular mission. She crashed her mouth against Asami’s, swallowing her moans and finding her tongue while she railed her senseless. Asami fell apart as Korra moved within her, seeking the roughest parts of Asami’s inner walls she could find. Every time Asami’s voice reached new heights, Korra curled her fingers to build her closer. 

 

“Asami.” Korra breathed into her ear, panting with exertion, moaning out her own arousal for Asami to hear. “God, I… love the way you feel.”

 

“Mmmm yes!” Asami gasped and bit down on Korra’s neck and bucked her hips harder. Korra angled her wrist so the heel of her palm grazed Asami’s clit at her every thrust and the engineer threw her head back and groaned feverishly. Her movements grew frantic and wild as she grasped at Korra’s arms.

 

“Yes ‘Sami, just like that.” Korra encouraged her, forging deeper to draw another high-pitched whine as Asami’s walls started to flutter around her fingers. “You feel so fucking good, Asami. Tell me. Tell me what you’re feeling.”

 

“Oh god...” Asami gasped at Korra’s encouragement. “I… mm… I love the way you fill me.” She eked out between moans and Korra thrust harder, spurred by the halting in Asami’s voice and the carnality of her words. “I… fuck… that feels so good Korra… please… don’t… stop…” Asami gasped for air as Korra hit a spot that elicited a breathy scream. Right here? “Right. There. Korra. Oh my god.” Asami wailed as her hips rocked wantonly against Korra’s hand.

 

“Korraa…” Asami breathed. “You’re… mmm you’re g-getting me so close.”

 

Korra sucked hard at the skin below Asami’s jaw, certain to leave a mark. Asami arched into her. She kissed her way down her neck and across Asami’s shoulders and collarbone, relishing the taste of her skin as much as she had her arousal. Asami panted against her lips. 

 

“I want you to come for me ‘Sami.” Korra growled into her ear. “I want to feel all of you.” Asami began to moan in short, high bursts. “You feel…”

 

“So... good…” Asami groaned between gulps of air.

 

“No…” Korra whispered back, curling her fingers against the spot that had Asami screaming before. “You feel mine.”

 

Asami's body burst like a dam beneath Korra. Her head flew back against the pillow and she trembled as she came, tightening deliciously around Korra’s fingers. “I-I… a… mmm… Korra! ” Asami fought to push sounds out of her lungs as her walls pulsed around Korra and she canted her hips in faltering, erratic movements to ride her climax to its peak. She wrapped her hand around Korra’s wrist, holding her inside for a few seconds as she frantically rode Korra’s fingers until her orgasm subsided. Oh my god. 

 

“Asami….” Korra breathed, awestruck. “Y-you’re….” She whispered, lost for words as she raked her eyes over Asami’s glistening skin, muscles still twitching in the aftermath. “You’re perfect.” 

 

**

 

Asami panted, struggling to regain control of her breathing. Beyond the blinding pleasure that had just wracked her body, beyond the evisceration of Korra’s hushed and awed worship… Asami had almost spilled her heart and confessed to Korra she loved her. ‘You feel mine.’ Asami’s entire soul responded to Korra’s words like a taut string that had been plucked. She’d come apart at the seams. She’d given up on holding back, had surrendered to the answer that tore out of her —‘I am. I love you’— until her climax shook her so violently that the only syllables she could form were Korra’s name.

 

As she came down, she reached desperately for Korra, seeking her skin, needing her comfort. Once her arms were safely around the woman she never wanted to leave, she was able to regain her breath. Korra laid against her chest, smiling blissfully as Asami recovered. 

 

I love you.

 

The thought came unbidden as she ran her fingers lightly over Korra’s back, waiting for her consciousness to return. She wondered if it ever would, hypnotized as she was by Korra’s electric smoothness and the warmth seeping into her very bones. Korra’s breath tickled at the crook of her neck and Asami smiled, slow, languid, and easy as she pressed her cheek to Korra’s temple. You… Korra’s soft, gentle lips moved lightly over her skin and she shivered. Feel… Asami’s fingers found a stronger, deeper connection as she traced over a long scar that ran almost the length of Korra’s spine. Like home.

 

Korra trembled under Asami’s touch and the sharp intake of breath against her collarbone reminded her of the inviting world she had yet to discover. Her hands grew bolder as she explored the hardness of Korra’s back and reached down to the curve of her hips. A groan vibrated against her as her fingers gripped the soft skin of Korra’s side and drew upward, letting her thumb slide purposefully over the swell of Korra’s breasts. Pressed against Asami as they were, she felt Korra’s nipples stiffen into her stomach, just out of reach of her thumbs, and she moaned along with Korra at the sensation. 

 

Asami closed her eyes, seeing all she needed of the world as her hands wandered over Korra’s bare skin. A hum of delight escaped her as the muscles of Korra’s ass tensed against her palms and Korra rocked her hips. “Mmm…” Korra groaned into her neck and Asami tightened her grip to encourage the movement. 

 

Asami slid her hands away and found Korra’s thighs, tugging them apart so Korra straddled her. She stole Korra’s lips back from their place on her neck and kissed her with the force of all the want she’d withheld while her hands flew back to encourage the rougher thrusts of Korra’s pelvis. While Korra sought her own relief, Asami couldn’t help thinking of how divine those rolling, practiced movements would feel pushing inside her if only they had a few toys at their disposal. The idea sent a throb to her own aching center and she tipped her hips upward to meet Korra. 

 

Korra whimpered when her clit made contact with the swell of Asami’s mound. Asami groaned. She could feel, beyond her own arousal, how wet Korra was. Oh god yes. Without separating their lips, Asami sat up, keeping Korra straddling her lap. Korra whined at the loss of pressure, and Asami bit down on her lip. “Uh-Uh,” she chided. Itching to give everything she could, Asami wanted Korra’s pleasure to be hers.

 

Her hands roamed over Korra’s abdomen, fingertips tracing reverently over the bumps of the muscles twitching and heaving under her touch. She bit her lip appreciatively when her thumb grazed over a dusky nipple and it stiffened instantly while Korra whimpered. Asami held her for a moment, relishing the sharp rise and fall of Korra’s sides against her hands and the infinite softness of the skin she’d once believed she’d never touch.

 

“Korra…” She whispered, enraptured. Korra opened her eyes. The dark lustfulness softened as soon as she found Asami’s eyes, suddenly a well of pent up emotions, all clawing their way out of her at once. Korra’s fingertips tugged Asami gently into a sweet kiss. Asami melted into her, overwhelmed by the tenderness, the intensity, the passion Korra gave so willingly. I want you so much. Her hands tightened over Korra’s ribcage and at the swipe of Korra’s tongue against hers, desire regained control.

 

Still awed, almost disbelieving, Asami resumed slowly, exploring tentatively and watching for Korra’s reactions. She reached down and palmed Korra’s backside. Her other hand felt its way down the column of Korra’s throat, across her chest and to her breast, paving the way for her lips that followed with open-mouthed kisses. She ghosted her mouth over a pert dark nipple and Korra choked back a high-pitched moan. Asami hummed as she encircled the hard nub with her lips, flicking it tentatively with her tongue until Korra cried out her approval and Asami began to tease it in earnest. Her fingers grazed over the other, pinching and twisting when Korra arched into her. 

 

“F-fuck Asami…” Korra gasped as she rocked herself against Asami in every way she could. Asami felt the slipperiness from Korra’s center spill onto her lap and groaned in expectant appreciation. She reached around Korra, extending her fingers from behind to slide experimentally over Korra’s swollen lower lips. Asami and Korra gasped in unison at the contact.

 

“You are… So. Wet.” Asami keened as she slid forward towards Korra’s clit. She couldn’t quite reach with her arm wrapped behind Korra but the approach was tantalizing enough that Korra cried out again and ground her hips downward against her. 

 

“Mm… hmm…” Korra whimpered softly as she rocked desperately against Asami’s light touch. “Please ‘Sami… I—” She groaned as Asami increased the pressure slightly, fingers already soaked by Korra’s arousal. Her next words came between gasps. “I-I want you… T-take me… please.”

 

Of course Korra begged. Of course she knew to do the one thing that drove Asami over the edge of sanity. 

 

With a growl she spread Korra’s thighs open further and reached down between them. She kept a hand clutching Korra’s backside as the other found Korra’s stiff, throbbing clit. “Aahhhh, yesss…” Korra groaned as Asami began to draw her fingers in tight circles over the sensitive nub. She dragged her lips up Korra’s chest and to her throat where she sucked hard, fully intending to leave a mark. Mine. “Ungh! Yes!” Korra screamed and clawed at Asami’s back as she ground herself against her hand.

 

“A-Asami!” Korra whined when her fingers slid forward to tease her opening. Asami retreated, resuming the circular pressure on Korra’s clit without yielding to the temptation of slipping inside her. She wanted to hear her beg again. Korra groaned and rocked her hips to bring Asami back to her entrance. “P-please….” Korra whimpered. The supplication was music, smoldering white-hot music that lit Asami up from within. “Inside. Please ‘Sami…”

 

Satisfied, Asami pushed forward with a smile. Korra’s body took her in eagerly, two fingers at once, and Korra thrust herself down until Asami was buried as deep as their position would allow. Oh my god… Asami glanced up to watch Korra’s face. She had screwed her eyes shut and thrown her head back as she raised and lowered herself onto Asami’s fingers with abandon. 

 

Asami ran her free hand up Korra’s body, pressing into her rippling muscles, gripping her side fervently as she felt Korra move beneath and around her hands. Entranced, she bent forward, taking Korra’s nipple in her mouth again, stiffening it further with rough swipes of her tongue. Korra cried out and pushed herself harder onto Asami’s fingers when her teeth grazed over the rigid nub. Hmm… Asami grinned and bit down on it gently, eliciting a loud cry.

 

As Korra’s movements grew more frantic, Asami grew frustrated with her limited range of motion. She pushed against Korra’s chest, fingers still curled inside her, until Korra leaned backwards and planted her arms behind her to support herself. Oh yes.

 

Asami’s mouth hung open in awe. What an exquisite view. Korra was stretched out before her, her strength visibly undulating beneath her dark skin as she writhed onto Asami’s fingers, gasping and moaning at the ceiling. The hot liquid of her arousal pooled in Asami’s hand as Asami thrust into her with renewed vigor, tapping the furthest depths of Korra she could reach, filling the room with the sounds of her devotion as she pushed inside her. You’re stunning .

 

“Yes, Korra,” Asami encouraged breathlessly as her free hand roamed possessively over Korra’s front. She groped and grabbed and teased everywhere she touched until Korra brought her head up and opened her eyes, staring deeply at Asami through the haze of pleasure and desire.

 

“A-Asami….” The plea was in her tone before it formed into words. Asami understood immediately. The desperation stirred something visceral within her and she held Korra’s gaze fiercely as she brought her free hand to the patch of hair that danced with the rhythm of her pumping fingers. Licking her lips, she let her thumb slide down over Korra’s swollen clit. It pulsed against her fingertip and Korra bit her lip to contain a scream.

 

Asami’s heart raced with the knowledge that it wouldn’t take much more to push Korra over the edge. She reached her thumb down to gather some of the overflowing wetness in the palm of her hand and brought it back to slip slowly over Korra’s throbbing bundle of nerves. “Mm oh god Asami yes.” Korra wailed and bucked erratically as Asami took her. 

 

She increased the pace over Korra’s clit as Korra’s hips lost control and curled her fingers against a textured part of Korra’s inner walls that made Korra gasp. “Y-ye… mmm… Korra was beyond words now. With a few final strokes, Asami increased the pressure wherever she could and Korra came undone. 

 

She rocked wildly as her head fell limply backwards and she cried out Asami’s name amid a lascivious series of expletives. Her climax gushed over Asami’s hand and Asami kept her rhythm and pressure, dedicated to guiding Korra through as many waves as she could. As the first died down, Asami didn’t stop. She drove a wide-eyed panting Korra instantly into a louder, higher second peak and then a third when her fingers found another sweet spot. 

 

“Fuck fuck fuckkkkk” Korra trembled and twitched, her arms shaking under her own weight as she came down, bumbling and dazed. Asami reached forward and caught her by the waist, pulling her close as she slowly removed her sopping fingers. “Oh my fu… Asami… I-I… god… I…” Korra had liquefied into an incomprehensible mess and Asami smiled up at her sweetly before bringing their lips together.

 

Korra hummed into her and wrapped weak arms around Asami’s shoulders as they kissed everything they had left into one another. Asami, sated, lost, and unbelievably happy, secured Korra against her as she fell gently back onto the bed. Korra cooed something sweet and unintelligible as her head fell limp on Asami’s chest and she sighed contentedly. Her arms burrowed around Asami’s sides and she made herself at home within her embrace.

 

“So… perfect…” Korra muttered as her breathing deepened and exhaustion took her. Asami held her tight, unable to form words that could describe this feeling better than that.

 

Chapter Text

Asami drifted into consciousness enveloped in softness. Everything fell perfectly into place as she slowly registered Korra’s even breathing, her arms tucked against Asami’s sides, and the impossible warmth that radiated from the body above her. She sighed softly, heart too full to allow room for the dread of reality. 

 

Her fingers lazily found Korra’s head resting on her chest and carded through her hair. I already love this. She scratched softly and was pleased to hear the rumbling hum to which she’d gotten so accustomed in such a short time. 

 

“You awake ‘Sami?” Korra sounded surprisingly coherent.

 

“Mhm…” Asami answered quietly. The air in the room felt too precious for normal volume. “Did I wake you?”

 

“No…” Korra wriggled up and pressed her nose to the crook of Asami’s neck, sighing into the nest she made for herself. “I’ve been awake for a little bit… just wanted to let you sleep. You’re cute when you sleep.”

 

Asami’s chest tightened at the simple sweetness. Korra had this heart-stopping tendency to say such wonderfully tender things without seeming to have thought twice about them. Before tonight, each of those moments had twisted Asami’s insides with a venomous blend of hope and denial. But here, with Korra bare and open on top of her, connected as they were, Asami could let herself feel all the giddiness and bashfulness Korra’s words brought out in her. The change was sharp and sudden and it shook her how natural it felt. She tightened her arms around Korra. 

 

“Creep.” Asami teased.

 

To make clear she meant no offense and that she in fact loved the idea of Korra near enough to watch her while she slept, she pressed her lips to Korra’s temple. 

 

She needn’t have worried; Korra chuckled against her and shrugged. “What can I say? You’re nice to look at.” 

 

There it was again. That sweet ache at how easy it was to say these things all of a sudden. 

 

She kissed Korra’s face again. That, too, squeezed her heart. Gently, Asami shrugged Korra out of her nook and raised her fingertips to Korra’s chin. I need to kiss you.

 

Korra found her eyes with a smile and Asami had to catch her breath before closing the tiny distance between them. Still. So. Good.  

 

In the last few hours, they’d kissed passionately and hungrily and sorrowfully and softly and intensely and still Asami was unprepared for the  hard-hitting tenderness and familiarity of Korra’s lips. The depth of emotion behind each kiss took her breath away. Korra was all here, completely and fully in this moment, completely and fully hers. She was thrown by how utterly new this all was and how it still somehow felt like they’d been doing it forever. 

 

Maybe Korra was just an amazing kisser. Maybe she made everyone feel like this. But the smile Asami felt against her mouth, the reverent caress of Korra’s fingertips along the cut of her jaw, and the little gasp she heard when their lips connected all told her that this was something different. Special. 

 

Taken, Asami pressed herself more firmly against Korra, tugging her chin closer with her fingers. Delightfully, Korra did the same. When her tongue pushed past Korra’s lips in the unavoidable escalation of this wondrous new sensation, Korra braced her elbow on the bed and lifted herself properly to lay on top. Hm, I think I know where this is heading.

 

Open and eager, Asami deepened the kiss and let her hands roam where they pleased over the expanse of perfection she finally had at her disposal. She tilted her head to give Korra’s insistent kisses access to her neck and sighed her pleasure at the love bites Korra left there. Her hands found Korra’s backside and through her closed eyes she envisioned the lopsided smirk Korra pressed against the soft skin of her shoulder.

 

She slid her leg between Korra’s thighs and gripped Korra’s ass, urging the tentative rocks of her hips. She wanted to feel that heat as close as possible. “Mmmfuck…” Korra groaned as she met Asami eagerly.

 

She was drenched. Asami felt Korra’s arousal coat her thigh and noticed her skin sliding against the parts of Korra’s legs where it had spilled over. “Korra…” she moaned, using her hands to pull Korra against her once more, “you’re so wet…”

 

“Mmm, I…” Korra’s words were lost to a grunt as her hips found pressure. “I… it’s never been… this way before….” Korra moaned out the words and Asami’s brain short-circuited. She brought one hand to Korra’s face and searched her eyes bewildered. ‘Really?’ Korra smiled and bit her lip as her hips rolled again. “I guess I… mm… just never wanted anyone this mm-much before.”

 

Again, that exquisite ache constricted Asami’s chest. Fervently, Asami captured Korra’s lips once more. She’d never felt anything close to this intensity, this connection. That rugby player from ages ago had driven her wild, but it had barely lasted a day. This was… ruinously consuming. The months spent pining enhanced the desire, yes, but a part of her knew that wasn’t the extent of it. Her entire soul felt at home with Korra in ways she could hardly wrap her mind around. 

 

Heart pounding she pulled back from the kiss and glanced at the woman above her. Korra had stopped rocking her hips and stared down at Asami, blue eyes attentive and devoted, feeling Asami’s heartache without needing to be told. I love you. The words burned at the back of Asami’s throat, itching to leap from her lips as she looked into the depths of Korra’s understanding. 

 

And of course, Korra knew. She nodded subtly as her eyebrows drew together, emotive and anguished and loving, and kissed Asami back, long and slow. She put her entire heart into each press of her lips and it stole the air from Asami’s lungs to feel Korra so entirely. How is it humanly possible for someone to kiss like this?

 

I wish this didn’t have to end.

 

The biting reminder of why she’d kept those three short words to herself gripped her painfully and she choked back a sob against Korra. The instructor tensed and began to pull away, concerned, ready to search Asami’s eyes for the comfort she might give. No. Asami clutched at Korra’s neck and kept them connected. I need you. They still had a little time. Resigned to the fatalistic truth that loving Korra today would make tomorrow harder, Asami ached to make every second count. She wouldn’t put words to her emotions, afraid Korra might do the same and force their reality into the light of day. Actions could speak for themselves.

 

She sank her teeth into Korra’s bottom lip and flipped them over. Korra yelped and Asami smirked against her, deepening the kiss as soon as she’d settled on top. Korra whimpered into her mouth at the swipe of her tongue and Asami’s entire body lit up at the sound. More.

 

Asami moved away, grasping Korra’s jaw and tilting it so she could access to the skin she wanted to taste. She gently kissed the mark that she’d left on Korra’s neck and worked her lips over the rest of the sensitive area, methodically seeking out those sharp gasps and small noises of pleasure. She ventured a nip just below Korra’s ear and the vocal reaction she received sent her hips searching for pressure against the throb at her own center. More.

 

Korra tangled her fingers in Asami’s hair and pulled her back to crash their lips together. Urgent and needy, Korra’s tongue sought Asami’s and Asami obliged. A few seconds later she tugged Korra’s lip between her teeth and retreated, relishing the way Korra lifted her head to follow her. Korra’s eyes opened and she looked up at Asami hazily, expectantly, and smiled. You are so goddamn cute . The soft expression sent Asami’s heart into a tailspin and she paused, brushing her nose over Korra’s to give herself a moment to recover her failing breath.

 

I should slow down. Instead of a frantic thirst for pleasure, she was gripped by an inescapable need to take her time. Gently, she took Korra’s arms, one at a time, and laid them on the pillow above her head. “Stay there.” Asami instructed against Korra’s lips. The instructor nodded with a sharp breath.

 

Cerulean eyes watched intently as the CEO descended on her body. Asami’s hands preceded her lips wherever she went, igniting the skin beneath her fingertips. She traced her way over the swell of Korra’s breasts, leaving the stiffening nipples for later, and over each of the bumps on her abdomen. With her hands wrapped around Korra’s waist and her mouth hovering just above her belly button, she looked up to find Korra’s gaze. The blue bore into her, dazed with want yet somehow still awestruck and adoring. 

 

Maintaining eye contact, Asami’s lips grazed over Korra’s stomach and it quivered under her touch. Korra’s breathing accelerated and her eyes began to cloud over. Asami smiled and paused to appreciate the sight of Korra spread before her. She raked her eyes over Korra’s defined abs, her heaving chest, her taut neck, and those gorgeously muscular arms. Perfection. 

 

Her eyebrows shot up when she focused for the first time on the tattoo of an arrow drawn along Korra’s tricep. It seemed suspended on her skin, caught mid-flight on its way to her elbow. It was thin and geometric, pointed in its simplicity, and it splendidly emphasized the swell of the muscles beneath it. 

 

Korra’s eyes followed hers and she smiled when she saw the question Asami hadn’t yet put into words.

 

“It means forward.” Korra explained, voice still a little rough from desire. She cleared her throat and Asami laid her head on Korra’s stomach. “It can be a lot of things but… on skis, it reminds me to keep my weight where it’s supposed to be.” Korra winked at her and they laughed together. Korra had spent the majority of the season reminding Asami to push herself forward against her ski boots. “But really… on the snow and with everything, it reminds me to keep it pointed in the direction I want to go.”

 

Asami smiled. Leave it to Korra to put a concept so big into something so simple. Asami had noticed the tattoo once before in the hotel but never got a real chance to see it. Just like…

 

“That reminds me…” Asami said thoughtfully. She grabbed Korra’s hips and turned to one side so she could finally discover the rest of the ink that had taunted her ever since she’d first seen Korra in a bathing suit. “I’ve been dying to know what you have here….”

 

Her breath caught at the sight of the iconic interlocking rings, symbol of the Olympic Games, dark against the skin of Korra’s right hip. Of course. She ran her thumb over each of the five circles, feeling the weight of their memory through her fingertips. 

 

“Dying to know, huh?” The playfulness in Korra’s voice drew her out of her solemn appreciation. 

 

“Mhmm…” Asami hummed as she trailed her fingers over the skin above the ink.

 

“How long have you been dying to know?” The silly quirk of her eyebrow helped lighten the question.

 

Might as well be honest. “I noticed it when Bolin and Opal were in town. Remember, we all got in the hot tub after the lesson?”

 

Korra’s eyes widened and she sat up. “S-since then?”

 

“Yeah… I saw the top of it over the edge of your bathing suit that day. I’ve been curious about what was there ever since.” Asami tried to sound casual. She didn’t want Korra second guessing everything, thinking too hard about Asami’s feelings and when they might have started. She didn’t want to think about it much either. 

 

“Oh.” Korra sounded at once relieved and disappointed. 

 

“It was also… kind of a tease.” Asami glanced up at Korra and winked, hoping to relieve some of the tension. 

 

“Oh?” Now she sounded eager. Playful. Better.

 

“All I could do was imagine what I might find underneath…” Asami grinned wickedly as Korra blushed. “And think about how much I wanted to do this.” Asami leaned forward and pressed her lips to Korra’s hip, right on top of the tattoo. The sharp gasp that greeted her told her she was on the right track. “And this.” This time her lips moved inward and followed the dip between Korra’s hip and leg. She pushed Korra back down onto the bed with an open hand as she palmed Korra’s inner thigh and coaxed her knees apart. Korra obeyed with a shaky breath. “And this.” Asami kissed the sensitive skin an inch  above Korra’s clit as her hands slid appreciatively over Korra’s tense quads. 

 

Korra groaned and her eyes fluttered closed. Her voice wavered as she worked to deliver her next words. “Been thinking about me for that long, huh?” Her eyes opened and she tried to smirk down at Asami between ragged breaths. 

 

Asami gripped Korra’s thighs as a fire burned in her belly. Her voice had roughened with the promise of Korra’s taste and it came out raspy when she answered, staring intently into Korra’s eyes. “Yes.”

 

She watched Korra’s eyes grow wide at her admission and then roll back in pleasure as her tongue found its mark. 

 

**

 

Korra glanced up, drinking in the sight of Asami writhing above her, one hand gripping the headboard and the other tangled in Korra’s hair. From this vantage point, on her back with her face buried between toned thighs, Korra was afforded an exquisite view of Asami’s flat stomach undulating above her, breasts swaying with her frantic movements, and mouth slack as her head hung back.

 

Keeping one arm wrapped around Asami’s leg, she released her grip on her ass and reached up to tease a stiff pink nipple. They’d been bouncing just beyond her reach and she was fed up with not touching them. Her tongue never slowed as she grazed the hard nub with her thumb and Asami screamed. “Ungh Korra! Yes!”

 

She was close. Korra loved that she could tell. Her grip tightened in Korra’s hair and her moans grew louder and less intelligible by the second. Korra held tighter with the arm around Asami’s thigh, forcing her still so she could finish her off. Asami’s tongue had just given Korra the ride of her life and she was hellbent on returning the favor.

 

She pinched the delightfully hard nipple between her thumb and forefinger and Asami’s pitch skyrocketed. Her thighs squeezed around Korra’s ears and Korra increased the pace of her strokes. Asami’s clit was pulsing and swollen between her lips as droplets of her arousal trickled down Korra’s chin. You taste so fucking good.

 

“Ungh mm, Korra!” Asami’s hips bucked in Korra’s arms and she tilted her head down sharply to find Korra’s eyes. Damn. The piercing green was dark with lust, clouded with pleasure, but still managed to tear right through to Korra’s heart. Korra craved that connection as much as Asami and she kept their eyes locked to push her over the edge.

 

Somehow the engineer managed to keep her eyes open as she came. Hypnotized, Korra watched those bright green eyes widen and brim with pleasure as Asami’s climax rocked them both. Asami’s cries and half words were muffled by the press of her thighs straddling Korra’s head, but somewhere in her chest Korra knew Asami screamed her name.

 

She reached up and caught Asami’s trembling form as the orgasm faded. Asami sat back limply and Korra guided her down, wrapping her in tender, loving arms. Where she belonged.

 

Korra pulled Asami tight to her chest and sighed deeply, inhaling the intoxicating mix of her skin, her arousal, and the smell of her shampoo. At this moment, she was convinced nothing in the world could ever feel as good as holding Asami spent and sated against her, kissing her down from her high, and breathing nothing but her scent. She could die happy here. When had she fallen so hard? And why the hell couldn't she have figured it out sooner?

 

I wish we had more time.

 

The thought lanced through her and she drew in a sharp breath, fighting off the anguish that threatened the preciousness of their time together. She kissed the crown of Asami’s head and the engineer sighed contentedly against her. She felt Asami’s fingers at her hip again, absently tracing the tattoo she couldn’t see and sending tremors up Korra’s spine.

 

“That tickles.” Korra whispered with a smile. Asami’s fingers stopped immediately and her hand slid slowly over Korra’s waist, across her chest, and snaked behind her neck before threading itself in Korra’s hair and resuming the absentminded caresses. An involuntary hum escaped Korra’s throat as she leaned into Asami’s fingers. The woman had a magic touch.

 

Korra lost herself in the delicate, intimate motions of Asami’s attention. She let the warmth of Asami’s silky skin drive away the chilling reminder of impending separation. She melted into the woman in her arms and held her tight until she could no longer resist the urge to kiss her again.

 

“Come here.” Korra requested quietly. Asami moved to oblige and Korra sighed at the feeling of their skin as Asami slid over her. She couldn’t remember anyone who’s entire body had felt so electric against hers, everywhere they touched. She’d closed her eyes to relish the charged smoothness and Asami opened them with a soft kiss to her chin, lips warm and inviting. Korra found Asami’s lovely smile waiting for her and couldn’t help the grin that cracked across her face. 

 

“Hi.” The engineer said, green eyes teaming with joy.

 

“Hi.” Korra didn’t waste a second. She closed the gap without hesitation and was rewarded with the sweetest, happiest hum of surprise that could come from a person. Asami’s lips still felt fraught and powerful against hers, even in such a languid embrace. Kissing Kuvira had always felt… normal. Like she believed kisses should feel. But this was extraordinary. It proved itself over and over again and Korra knew she could never have enough.

 

She pulled back and held Asami’s face in her hands, blown away by the closeness that shielded them temporarily from the world outside. “I could do that all night.” Korra whispered reverently.

 

Asami’s lips curled into a smile but Korra saw her eyes falter, sending a crack tearing across the face of their illusion. “Let’s make a deal, then.” Asami said after the briefest pause. Korra clutched her tighter in anticipation, expecting her next words to shatter the paradise completely. “If you help me get ready for tomorrow, we can come back in here and do just that. All night.” 

 

There it was. The crack widened, but didn’t split. Asami, in all her grace, had delivered a manageable dose of reality for them both to swallow. But with a healthy helping of indulgence as a reward. It was the best deal Korra would get. “I think I can handle that.” Korra answered, fighting the waver in her voice. She stole another kiss, this one a little more sorrowful than she’d intended, before continuing. “What’s on your list?”

 

Asami’s eyebrows pinched together. “How did you know I made a list?”

 

Korra smiled and kissed her nose. “You always do ‘Sami.”

 

Asami’s eyes widened with a smile then froze. Instantly, they filled with that sadness, the depth she’d only seen a handful of times before, the one that burned a hole in Korra’s stomach. “God Korra…” Asami’s voice strained on her words and she hid her face in Korra’s neck. A few seconds later, she resurfaced, looking her composed radiant self, no trace of the anguish Korra had just heard in her voice. 

 

Korra’s heart broke. She recognized the internal battle Asami had fought just then, pushing away the overwhelming feeling of love to give herself a chance at surviving whatever came next. It occurred to her suddenly that over the last few months, she’d witnessed Asami have that debilitating inner dialogue dozens of times. Except she’d never known what it was until she felt it herself. And Asami had never let it be seen or heard or understood; she’d never slipped until now. But here she was, still fighting to hold it together, with Korra making it harder and harder by the minute.

 

Korra kissed her fiercely. I’m so sorry. You’re too good to deserve this. I can’t keep doing this to you. She pulled back, tears welling in her eyes as she said what she knew was the correct and proper thing to say, despite how it broke her. “I-I can also… go. I-if that’s… easier.” Give her a way out, Korra. It’s the least you can do.

 

“No!” Asami said quickly, sounding absolutely terrified. “Please don’t—” she took a beat to calm the waver in her voice as Korra brushed a thumb over her cheek. Asami cleared her throat but her words still came out small and shaky. “Please don’t go.”

 

“Okay.” Korra whispered, brushing the hair back from Asami’s cheeks and clearing away the stray tear that found its way out of her glistening green eyes. “I’m not going anywhere.” She choked out, voice cracking with relief.

 

They held each other between charged, mournful kisses for several more minutes before Korra dared mention the list again. “So…” she said, caressing the magnificent skin of Asami’s bare shoulder, “what needs to get done before we can get back to doing this?” 

 

Asami smiled softly up at her, heart-stoppingly beautiful with Korra’s arms contrasting around her pale skin. Korra’s breath caught at the sight and she only heard the last few items on the list. “... prep the car for shipping, re-fold the clothes and pack them, then... shower.” 

 

Shower?! Korra’s eyebrows shot up and Asami’s smile widened. 

 

**

 

Everywhere outside Korra’s arms was cold. Asami’s regular tank-top-and-sweats lounge attire no longer cut it now that she’d experienced the depth of true warmth. She turned to the bed as she tugged on a thick knit sweater. “Planning on getting out of there anytime soon?”

 

“Hmna-wha?” Korra blinked at her from under the covers, lost. Her eyes hadn’t left Asami since they parted. She’d felt them following her around the room as she dressed, amplifying the goosebumps that formed on her skin. Asami raised an eyebrow and smirked, eyeing Korra expectantly. “Oh! Right!” The instructor threw the covers off herself and hopped out of the bed. “I’m coming. Just got… distracted.” She looked sheepishly at Asami and the glint in her bright blue eyes almost had the engineer pushing her back into bed and forgetting everything that still had to get done. 

 

Focus. 

 

“I’ve already got the house mostly packed up. Office is done, kitchen needs a little tidying, but that’s about it besides the car and my stuff in here.” 

 

Korra bounced on one foot as she pulled her jeans over an ankle. No underwear. Ungh, goddamnit Korra. “So what’s the deal with the car?”

 

“It’s getting picked up tomorrow at noon to be shipped back to New York. Plan is to load it up with anything I won’t need for the next two weeks; ski gear, mostly.”

 

“Wait, how are you getting to the airport?” Korra stood up and buttoned her pants. Shirtless, braless, in nothing but low cut jeans and mussed up bed hair, Korra looked straight out of a magazine. Asami put zero effort into hiding the way she eyed Korra up and down. She bit her lip for good measure and received a disarming sideways grin as a reward. Geez. 

 

“I, uh…” Asami tore her eyes away from Korra’s abs diving deliciously into her waistband and took inventory of her once neatly folded clothes strewn about the floor. Not helping. She cleared the desire from her throat. “I scheduled a cab.”

 

“Oh…” The disappointment in Korra’s voice made Asami look back. When their eyes met she saw Korra swallowing her timidness before setting her jaw and asking, “Can you cancel? I want to take you.”

 

Oh Korra. Asami breathed against the tightening in her chest. “You don’t have to do that… it’s a two hour drive.”

 

Korra took a step forward, determined. This might be easier if she didn’t look so unbelievably sexy in her half-dressed, post-coital glow. “Tomorrow’s my day off. I got time.”

 

“I…” Asami wanted to say anything she could to stop her heart from soaring the way it did when Korra was this excruciatingly sweet. Nothing came to mind.

 

A few more steps and Korra reached her. She planted her hands on Asami’s hips and glanced at her earnestly, blue eyes enhancing the debilitating feeling that already had Asami floundering. “Please? I…” One of Korra’s hands found Asami’s and laced their fingers together. The touch was electrifying. Had they never done that before? “... I-I want all the time I can get.” Korra admitted quietly, timid once more.

 

Oh gosh. Asami felt herself reeling, head spinning as she gripped Korra’s hand. “O-okay.” She whispered. What else could she say over the thundering of her heart? Of course she wanted more time. She made a mental note to call the company before bed. Then she bent down and pressed a soft peck to the corner of Korra’s lips, allowing their foreheads to linger together before she pulled away. “Now…” she cleared her throat of its myriad of lumps, “go put some clothes on before I get distracted.”

 

Korra grinned and squeezed her hand before walking away to search the room for her sports bra. It took a full minute before she brandished it triumphantly from beneath one of Asami’s silk shirts and shrugged it on. “Alright. Let’s do this!” 

 

Must you look like that the entire time? Asami tossed her a sweater, unwilling to let Korra parade around her house half naked and pull focus from the tasks at hand.

 

They made a good team. Korra listened carefully to Asami’s instructions about each and every item on the list and executed them efficiently. Maybe not as precisely as Asami would have liked, but at this point she was beyond caring. The goal was to get done and get back to— 

 

Korra’s hands found her waist for the thousandth time since they got out of bed. “S’cuse me.” Korra said mischievously as she brushed past Asami in the kitchen, much closer than the space warranted. All Asami could do was grin foolishly and pick up her pace so she could feel those hands on her again as soon as possible.

 

Soon, they were stuffing her suitcase—okay, suitcases—with shoes and clothing, leaving only the items she would need before her flight tomorrow. Asami found herself slowing, bogged down by the anguish of the inevitable, as she watched Korra hurriedly pile haphazardly folded clothing into her second suitcase. 

 

Korra looked up at her and smiled. Full and warm and crooked and utterly perfect. I can’t believe I have to say goodbye to this. Asami felt the bite of tears begin to tickle her eyes when Korra held up a lacy thong with a wicked grin. Surprised, Asami blinked back, not a thought forming in her mind. “I remember this.” Korra said with a smirk.

 

All Asami could do was tilt her head to one side, wordlessly requesting that Korra elaborate.

 

“I remember watching you put this away in the dresser at the hotel.” Korra explained. Oh. Right. Asami had made sure to include some of her most tantalizing delicates in her suitcase that night. “And I remember having a really hard time thinking about anything else for a while after that…” 

 

“Is that so?” Asami asked with her best feigned innocence.

 

“Mhmm.” Korra eyed Asami eagerly as the engineer made her way around the bed. 

 

She wrapped her fingers slowly around the lace and pried it gently from Korra’s fingers. “Well,” Asami purred into Korra’s ear, “why don’t you hurry up then?” She felt Korra’s breathing hitch against her neck. “Maybe once we’re done you won’t have to think about it anymore.” She accentuated her words with a nibble to Korra’s earlobe then walked away, carrying the thong with her into the bathroom. She grinned when she heard Korra mutter ‘holy fuck’ as she watched Asami go.

 

Asami came back out of the bathroom not a minute later to find that all of her clothes had magically disappeared into her two suitcases. She’d only taken the time to slip off her sweats and put on the underwear, intent on following through on her promise. She just hadn’t expected Korra to be quite so effective at hurrying.

 

She raised an eyebrow at the smug Korra sitting on her bed. “You did fold the clothes before putting them away, right?”

 

“Totally.” Korra grinned and Asami lost her ability to care if Korra was lying or not. She’d get herself a whole new wardrobe if it would afford her a little extra time with this woman.

 

“I definitely believe you.” She said, unconvinced, as Korra sauntered over to her. Asami intercepted Korra’s hands and placed them on her hips, using them to slide her pants down to sit as low on her frame as possible, leaving the lacy rim of the thong just visible above her waistband. She leaned forward to brush her lips over Korra’s ear, eliciting a shiver as their joined hands grazed the ornate fabric. “Only thing left on the list is a shower.” She heard Korra’s voice catch in a whimper as she whispered, “Care to join me?”

 

Asami lost herself in Korra’s hands as they grasped her hips in response and pushed her firmly backwards into the bathroom. She let those hands make her forget again, blissfully and sensuously, as she writhed against them in the shower and they filled her with a heat that consumed her entirely. A warmth that had already begun to feel like home.

 

**

 

Korra pointedly ignored the suitcases sitting beside the bedroom door as she snuck under the covers. Asami followed just behind, not a lick of clothing covering her elegant form, and Korra drank in the sight unabashedly. They’d giggled together about some practical excuse to forgo pajamas for the evening and Korra was impatiently awaiting her chance to have Asami against her once more. 

 

To call it addicting was an understatement. Asami sat lithely on the edge of the bed to do something with her phone and Korra had her hands on her in an instant. She rubbed Asami’s back and tugged at her hips, letting her insistent caresses speak for her. Come to bed.

 

As if she’d heard, Asami glanced over her shoulder with a flawless smile that froze Korra’s mind and hands. It took her a few seconds to recover and register that Asami had finally set the device down and tucked her legs under the covers. Yes!

 

Before Asami had fully laid down, Korra wrapped her arms around the engineer and sidled up against her back. She brushed raven locks away onto the pillow and planted kisses wherever her lips could reach without loosening her grip. Once Asami’s neck, shoulders, and upper back had been thoroughly kissed goodnight, Korra sighed contentedly and let her nose rest softly in the valley between Asami’s shoulder blades. She tangled their legs together and pulled tighter, seeking every inch of contact she could find. Korra smiled at the feel of Asami’s arms encircling her own and squeezing back.

 

Korra had always been a cuddler. And she’d be damned if she missed the opportunity to hold Asami exactly like she’d dreamed. But she’d never been able to fully fall asleep in someone’s embrace until today. She’d always rolled into her own space as soon as drowsiness weighed on her eyelids. Except for earlier, when the only place in the world she felt safe enough to let go of consciousness was within Asami’s embrace. Cocooned by those arms, Korra had dozed with abandon. It blew her away how certain she was that tonight she’d sleep better than she ever had.

 

“Night ‘Sami.” Korra muttered softly against Asami’s back. I love you. She didn’t give the words a second thought as the transcendent comfort of Asami’s closeness swept her into slumber.

 

**

 

As the house emptied, Asami’s joy to have Korra around began to feel hollow. It was all disappearing too rapidly. She found herself pulling away, inch by inch, building distance slowly so that when it came time for goodbye she might be able to keep it together.

 

She tried not to think about the warmth that Korra breathed into everything. As she packed away her last pieces of clothing, she tried to forget the comfort that engulfed her this morning when she woke up. She shut her eyes tightly against the memory of Korra moving above her, inside her, and tightening around her fingers as they breathlessly came together before leaving the safety of their bed, lips locked desperately to hold back the tide of the three words they both ached to say. 

 

She pretended her chest didn’t swell and fought the fire in her heart as Korra delightedly presented her with buttered toast—the last of the food in the kitchen—before announcing she was going out to get them the best coffee in town. And she failed at not clutching Korra to her breast before the instructor left for the short outing, only to feel the familiar sting of tears once the door closed behind her.

 

Alright Sato, get it together. Asami could use the few minutes alone to gather herself, to steel her nerves for farewell. Focusing on efficiency, she cleaned up the small mess from their breakfast and triple checked that the car was ready to go. 

 

“‘Sami?” Korra’s voice called for her from somewhere inside the house. In the garage, Asami took a deep breath. She needed to start protecting herself again or she wouldn’t be able to see once she got to the airport. 

 

“In here!” She answered, hands on the car to steady herself. Korra waltzed in with two coffees in hand and an endearingly chuffed smile. She held out one of the cups as Asami walked up to meet her.

 

“Just the way you like it, cream and sugar.” Korra declared with a kiss to Asami’s cheek. Asami didn’t stand a chance.

 

She melted into the lingering warmth from Korra’s lips on her skin and the temperature of the cup in her hands. 

 

The morning carried on this way, Asami using every minute alone to convince herself to pull away and losing all conviction the very next moment Korra’s eyes found hers. Korra was a blinding beam of genuine happiness and no matter how hard she tried Asami couldn’t keep herself away from the light.

 

The mood shifted considerably once the crew arrived and loaded her car into the trailer. Korra’s bright energy dimmed and Asami felt her withdrawing as they watched the truck drive away. No amount of preparation could have braced her for how hamstrung she felt at Korra’s abrupt distance. 

 

With her heart in a vice, she grazed her fingers over the back of Korra’s hand and tried not to wince when Korra almost jerked it away. “Come on,” Asami said, amazed her voice still worked through the pain coiling around her throat, “we should get back inside.”

 

Korra nodded weakly and followed her into the house. Asami performed one last sweep of the garage before closing it up for good. It was almost time to go.

 

**

 

Korra had picked up on Asami’s ambivalence as soon as they left the shelter of bed. She knew what Asami was feeling and knew exactly what she would try to do. Korra wasn’t having any of it. She intentionally, lovingly pulled Asami back to her every time she sensed the engineer try to back away. Considering the night they’d had and how perfectly wrapped up in each other they’d been this morning, Korra was having a hard time letting go. It was selfish, but she wanted to pretend for a little longer. She convinced herself it would be okay for Asami, too. You don’t need to be so prepared all the time.

 

Oh how she’d been wrong. The moment the trailer drove Asami’s car away, Korra felt the earth give way beneath her feet. A little preparation might have been a good idea to help prevent her from falling over. The emptiness hit her hard and she crumbled under the weight of tomorrow and all the days that would come after, all without Asami. It occurred to her distantly that this felt significantly more wrong and insurmountable than the end of her and Kuvira’s relationship. 

 

Korra disappeared into herself, wallowing in her distress, and started when she felt a touch against her hand. She’d pulled away instinctively, startled, noticing too late the wounded look in Asami’s eyes. No… If she thought she’d been hurting before, it did not compare to the despair she felt knowing she’d caused the poorly disguised pain in Asami’s shrunken voice.

 

Concerned, saddened, and completely at a loss, Korra moved like a shadow as she helped Asami close up the house and load her suitcases into Korra’s car. Unfeeling, empty, she watched Asami tear up as she looked wistfully around the sun-soaked living room and relinquished her keys to the table in the foyer. Korra ached to provide comfort with a hand on Asami’s shoulder or a kiss to her cheek as they left the house behind. Unsure and unsteady, Korra didn’t touch her.

 

They climbed into the car in silence and Korra couldn’t bring herself to look at Asami. She didn’t want to see the sadness, didn’t think she could take it if she saw tears glistening bright in those gorgeous eyes. She took a deep breath and turned the key in the ignition. Wordlessly, she shifted into reverse and backed them out of the drive. Asami pulled up navigation on her phone and set the device on the dash with shaky fingers. Oh geez.

 

Asami’s quiet suffering destroyed her. She knew how hard Asami was working to keep her composure. She understood everything Asami was feeling and knew she was only making it worse. The impossibility of the situation was infuriating and all Korra could bring herself to do was drive in silence and continue sending daggers into Asami’s heart. I’m horrible.

 

Ugh, all she wanted was to hang on to her. Let Asami see how much she cared, how much she would miss her, and how much she wanted her to stay. That was the crux of it, really. She worried that if she let herself open up again, she’d say the things that would only make the situation worse. I love you. Please stay. She might be hurting Asami now, but forcing her to turn away from those words would tear them both to shreds. Asami had made it clear that was a line she wasn’t willing to cross.

 

They merged onto the highway, still without a word. The laden silence was eating at her. She heard a stifled sniff from the passenger side and nearly swerved into the adjacent lane. Korra’s knuckles went white on the steering wheel as she doubted every instinct and idea that popped into her mind. Should she reach out and comfort? Should she leave her alone to suffer in peace? Should she say something? Nothing? Turn around and drive them both to her own apartment and hide forever?

 

Gahhh damn this! Jaw clenched, she let herself glance over to check on Asami. Her chest constricted as she saw only the side of her face, her elegant profile disrupted by a tear that clung to her chin as she stared out the window. Korra tore her eyes away as her breath caught in her throat. I can’t do this.

 

What can’t you do, Korra?

 

I can’t fucking sit here and keep pushing her away!

 

That’s what you’ll have to do in the end. Might as well start now.

 

No! She glanced at Asami again and felt her heart cracking. Not yet. 

 

“Screw this.” Korra muttered angrily and Asami shifted, wiping at her cheek before turning a puzzled look on Korra.

 

Probably more aggressively than she should have, Korra reached over the console and grabbed Asami’s hand. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed Asami’s eyebrows knit together as Korra entwined their fingers, delicately now she had something precious in her grasp. The touch was still electric, still sent jolts up Korra’s arm. Asami still felt so unbelievably good.

 

Satisfied with their link, Korra tugged Asami’s arm back over to her side of the console. She lifted their joined hands slowly and pressed her lips gently to the back of Asami’s palm. She heard Asami’s wavering exhale and pushed forward, kissing each of her fingers and knuckles, letting her lips linger tenderly wherever they liked. I’m not letting you go just yet. When she was done, she lowered Asami’s hand and held it in her lap, tracing her thumb lovingly over her knuckles. 

 

She didn’t look away from the road once, but she knew based on the sound of Asami’s breath and the sweet little sounds that escaped her, that she had softened at the gesture. Korra sighed, the heaviness of the air mollified once she and Asami came together again. Objectively, the touch changed nothing, but in its own connected way, it helped Korra feel like the world would no longer crash down on top of them when they said goodbye.

 

They didn’t say much for the rest of the drive, but Korra never released Asami’s hand. Every few minutes, she brought it to her lips again, unsure who she intended to comfort with the intimacy of the gesture but certain it was the right thing to cling to.

 

**

 

Korra had been clutching her hand nonstop for ninety minutes. More than once, Asami would have felt significantly more comfortable as a passenger if the driver had been using both hands to drive. Her pounding heart, however, disagreed.

 

Especially now that Korra had pulled to a stop in a parking spot near the terminal. Early on a Sunday afternoon, the departures lane would be teaming with travelers and it didn’t escape Asami’s notice that Korra had picked a more private location for their farewell. They both stared silently at their linked hands for a few moments before Korra used her free one to reach across herself awkwardly and shift the car into park. She brought it back to her lap and cradled Asami’s hand in both of hers. She played with Asami’s fingers before squeezing them and settling the entangled heap into her lap.

 

“There’s a lot I want to say.” Korra muttered weakly.

 

Asami’s heart leapt to her throat and she nodded softly. The last time Korra had said those words to her, Asami assured Korra that she could tell her anything. Today… not so much. Please don’t. I don’t think I can take it.  

 

“I know,” was all she had the courage to say.

 

Korra glanced up and they looked at each other for a drawn-out moment. Asami watched the internal struggle play out in the expanse of blue before her, saw the depths of Korra’s sorrow and care, and knew what Korra wanted to say and hoped to god Korra wouldn’t do it. How could she hold herself back if Korra did?

 

“Asami, I…” Oh no… “I don’t even have words to describe how amazing it’s been to spend the last few months getting to know you.” Oh. This was okay; better. “And then last night…” Or, it could turn out to be much much worse. “... last night made all the time we’d spent together beforehand pale in comparison.”

 

Asami couldn’t help her smile. It was true; last night made every other night of her life pale in comparison. Korra caught her expression and returned it with a lopsided smirk. She emphasized their agreement with a hand to Asami’s cheek and a quick peck to the corner of her mouth before she sat back and continued.

 

“I’m so glad we… got to have that.” Korra eyed her again and Asami nodded, tightening her fingers between Korra’s.

 

“Me too.” Asami whispered honestly. 

 

“And I’m still sorry.” Korra added resolutely.

 

“For what?” 

 

“For everything I put you through. Through all of the talks, the studying, the bad days… you were an infallible friend, loyal and supportive and caring and I took it all and didn’t even… and now I can’t… we can’t…” She glanced away, troubled, then sighed. “I’ve never known anyone like you, ‘Sami. You’re really…” Korra huffed out a frustrated breath. “... really special.”

 

Still confused about the apology, Asami didn’t quite register the heaviness of the word as it rolled emphatically from Korra’s mouth. “You have nothing to be sorry for, Korra.”

 

“I really do.” Korra shook her head and scrunched her eyes shut. Asami watched anxiously as she struggled to find her next words, opening her mouth to start a handful of times, only to decide against her choice and shut it again. 

 

A few seconds later, Korra opened her eyes and looked back up. The unchecked emotion so evident in the glassy blue took Asami’s breath away. Korra was hurting and yearning and heartbroken, and not hiding it at all. All Asami wanted to do was make it disappear. She considered her options for a thrilling moment of insanity: leaving New York and her company behind to spend the rest of her days hiding away with Korra on a mountainside somewhere chasing powder...

 

A wonderful fantasy indeed, but nothing more. Her own heart started to split open. A tear spilled over onto Korra’s cheek and Asami brushed it away with the pads of her fingers, watching as Korra’s eyes softened at her touch. 

 

Then they filled with clear, unabashed, unmistakable love, and Asami nearly tipped over. Somehow she’d missed this the entire night before. Somehow, even though she’d assumed what was behind all of Korra’s perfect gentleness and charged touches, seeing it unveiled so plainly and honestly before her was at once exhilarating and heartrending. Her vision blurred as Korra decided on what to say. 

 

“Asami. I—”

 

Asami surged forward and captured the words with her lips, kissing Korra fervently and earnestly and intently. I love you, too. It did not need to be said aloud. Korra proved as much as she released Asami’s hands and cupped her face, pulling Asami as close as the car would allow. Korra’s fingers found her hair and Asami felt her fall apart against her lips. She didn’t know whose tears wet their cheeks as Korra gave herself over completely to the storm that raged between them. Asami went with her.

 

Korra reared back suddenly, tearing herself away, and Asami’s head simply followed, tugged magnetically in her direction without a thought left in her brain. Korra’s hands on either side of her face stopped her from reigniting the kiss. Breathless and bereft, Asami opened her eyes.

 

She found glistening, soft blue, brimmed with tears, regarding her with the same sorrow she felt in her soul. “I wish we had more time.” Korra said quietly, swallowing against the crack in her voice.

 

And that was it. The long and short of it all, condensed into one simple phrase that summed up all of their pain and wrapped it in a neat little bow. Robbed of words that could better describe what she felt, Asami only nodded grievously. She turned her face in Korra’s hands and pressed an anguished kiss to her palm. Then another against the soft skin of her wrist before she wrapped Korra’s hands in hers and lowered them from her cheeks. Time to go.

 

She saw a flash of rebellious refusal pass across Korra’s eyes before it was quickly suppressed and Korra nodded dejectedly.

 

In silence, they left the car and unloaded Asami’s things. Korra wasn’t coming with her into the terminal; there was no point in prolonging this further. With a suitcase on either side of her, standing by Korra’s beat up old truck, Asami took a last look at the woman she loved. They hugged again, tightly, desperately, and mournfully, without making a single promise of keeping in touch or seeing each other again. Korra clung to her for as long as Asami clutched at her jacket. Together, they decided when to let go.

 

Before turning away, Asami leaned down and pressed a kiss to Korra’s cheek. “Say bye to Naga for me.” She said quietly and Korra’s choked laugh-cry left Asami’s knees barely functional.

 

Asami steeled herself and walked away. Only when she’d turned the corner did she let the tears stream down her cheeks. Only when she knew that Korra wouldn’t see did she stop and rely on the wall of the garage to hold her upright as she raised a trembling hand to her mouth to catch the sobs that had clawed incessantly at the back of her throat since last night. Goodbye, Korra.

 

Chapter Text

“I’m assuming things went well?” Jinora’s question died on her lips at the sight of Korra’s red-rimmed eyes. 

 

“I… it depends on what you consider well.” Korra answered pitifully.

 

Naga wagged her tail eagerly as she greeted her human, but even the sight of the wiggling innocent pup did little but remind Korra of Asami’s last words to her. She knelt down and hugged Naga tightly by the scruff of her neck and whispered against her fur. “This is from Asami. Directly to you.” Naga sat patiently and panted.

 

“Did you tell her?” Jinora walked over, proferring a glass with a generous pour of whiskey. Best ‘sister’ in the world.

 

“Technically? No.” Korra stood up and took a sip of the searing liquid.

 

“Then what the hell did you do all night?!” Her roommate asked incredulously.

 

“Exactly what you think.” At the confirmation, Jinora smiled. “But she wouldn’t let me say it.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“I… we just… we kissed and slept together and did all of these wonderful things and it was pretty much perfect but the words just never made it out.” Korra looked up at Jinora exasperatedly. “It was definitely out there, and I swear she knows but saying it was just sort of off limits, I dunno.”

 

Jinora blinked at her, processing the explanation with a hand under her chin. A quiet ‘hm’ indicated her acceptance of the story before she asked, “Are you okay with how things went?”

 

“I…” Korra shook her head and raked a hand through her hair. “In the last twenty hours I’ve been the happiest and saddest I’ve felt in… shit I don’t even know. She’s… amazing, Jinora. But no matter how good or right it felt to be with her… the outcome was never going to change. She was always going to leave and, well, she did.”

 

Korra threw herself down on the couch in a huff meant to blow away the tears building at the edges of her eyes. Jinora sat neatly across from her. She sighed heavily and swirled the caramel liquid in her glass. “At least I got to apologize.” Korra muttered into her cup.

 

“Apologize for what?”

 

“For being such an idiot. For taking advantage of how she felt and letting her be so great to me without even considering that I might be leading her on… for months I did that while I was still with Kuvira. And it’s not like I didn’t enjoy the way Asami treated me, the way she looked at me… I loved it. I loved being around her, loved how she made me feel, even though I gave nothing back. I was so selfish. And I let her keep going while I kept myself unavailable. God I was such an asshole.”

 

“Korra, don’t be so hard on yourself. You weren’t taking advantage of Asami. You had real feelings for her, too. You just didn’t quite realize it. It might make you an idiot, but not an asshole. I blame Kuvira and her manipulative bullshit for that.” Jinora huffed. Then she paused and her eyes widened. “Wait, did you say months?”

 

Korra heaved out an embarrassed breath and nodded. Why speak when you can sip your drink instead?

 

“Wow… so this has been a long time coming then.” Jinora wondered aloud and Korra shrugged, too caught up in the anguish of now to think about how it all started. “Does this mean she feels the same way?!” Her roommate sat up eagerly all of a sudden. “If she’s had feelings for a while and you’re basically in love even though you just figured it out… does she… you know… love you back?” 

 

Yes. Korra had known even before last night. And yet, she’d still been left speechless by each and every way Asami demonstrated it to her yesterday and this morning. And when they said goodbye. Korra could still feel the emotions tingling on her lips. She raised her cup to disguise her instinct to press her fingertips to her mouth, where she remembered Asami most. She answered Jinora with a feeble nod.

 

“Oh…” Jinora understood. As exciting as it was for love to be requited, it made no difference now that Asami was gone. Jinora scooted over and put an arm around Korra’s shoulder. Korra dropped her head miserably against her roommate and let the tears flow. 

 

**

 

“Surprise!” A chorus of voices, three to be exact, greeted Asami cheerfully as she pushed her apartment door open. 

 

In front of anyone else, she’d be mortified at the current state of her appearance. As it was, the two rugby players and her best friend had seen her in much worse shape before; mud, blood, bruises and make-up had all been smeared across her face around these people at one point or another. Unable to say anything else, Asami just smiled, her first genuine one since leaving the house in Whistler.

 

Opal reached her first and pulled her into a tight embrace. Bolin arrived a second later and hoisted the two of them off the ground in a crushing hug. “Aaahh Asami I’m so happy to see you! WE MISSED YOU SO MUCH!”

 

“Mhmm.” Opal’s muffled but enthusiastic agreement vibrated against Asami’s shoulder as her smile widened.

 

“Yeah, the city’s not the same without you.” Mako said from beyond her sight somewhere.

 

As soon as Bolin had returned her to the ground, she walked over and hugged his brother. She pulled back and was relieved to find nothing but friendliness and genuine kindness in Mako’s amber eyes. No expectation or awkward discomfort hinting at unresolved history. Just her friend. Oh thank god. She stepped forward and pulled him in for another embrace. He returned it heartily and together they breathed a sigh of relief. Time heals all wounds, indeed.

 

He grabbed her shoulders and studied her when they separated a second time. At the sight of the puffiness in her eyes his sharp eyebrows drew together in concern. “What happened?”

 

Opal rushed over and tore Asami away so she could get a look for herself. Her eyes narrowed as she scanned Asami’s face, puffy from lack of sleep, eyes red from crying, lips swollen from tissues and from yesterday’s indulgences. With a swift motion, she pulled down the collar of Asami’s jacket and her eyes widened at the hickies she found there. Dark green eyes squinted with excitement then worry as she gasped, “Korra.”

 

“What’s a Korra?” Mako asked, bewildered.

 

“Korra!” Bolin yelped and clapped his hands together. “How is she? Does she miss us?”

 

“Oh… who is Korra?” Mako corrected himself.

 

Opal’s eyes never left Asami as Bolin regaled Mako with the tales of Korra’s supremacy on the slopes and her epic generosity with champagne. All Asami could do was glance between her friends then look dejectedly down at the floor.

 

Letting the boys remain distracted, Opal pulled Asami aside and asked quietly, “What happened, babe?”

 

“A lot.” Asami answered weakly. What a nice way of putting it.

 

Opal threaded kind fingers through her hair and brushed it back from her face. “I can see that…” Her voice was all comfort and it brought tears hot against Asami’s eyes. “Why don’t you go shower, hm? I’ll help you unpack and the boys can hang out down here and make dinner. We brought frozen pizza.”

 

“Alright.” Asami nodded softly. She reached out and squeezed Opal’s hand. “Thanks, O.”

 

Opal glanced at her earnestly before explaining to Mako and Bolin their duties. “It’s what I’m here for, babe. I got you.”

 

Five minutes later, Asami was undressing in the bathroom when Opal’s incredulous voice carried through the door from her bedroom. “ What the hell is this?! I don’t know who packed this suitcase, but it was definitely not you, Sato!” Asami chuckled sadly to herself before her friend exclaimed again. “Seriously, what a mess!”

 

A worthwhile mess. Asami remembered Korra’s smug smile and the extra time her evidently terrible packing had afforded them. She thought about the steam in the shower and how it had swirled around Korra’s glistening skin as Asami kneeled before her, face buried devoutly between her legs. No. Shut that down. Remembering never helped.

 

Asami wiped off what was left of her make-up and turned the water as high as it would go when she stepped into her shower. This she had missed. The high-powered showerhead she’d modified herself pounded hot water over her shoulders and helped melt away a portion of the unease that had settled there. She took her time washing her hair, exfoliating her skin, shaving, moisturizing… everything she could do to keep her mind occupied. Preening had always relaxed her.

 

She came out of the bathroom in a cloud of steam, enveloped in a fluffy robe with a towel twisted in her hair. Opal sat on the bed folding her way through a large pile of disorganized clothing. At the sight of Asami she looked up and smiled. “You look warm.”

 

“You are the greatest friend in all the world.” Asami smiled back, feeling unspeakably grateful for Opal’s not-at-all quiet devotion.

 

“Nah,” Opal waved her off with a smirk, “I’m just doing this so I can get all the juicy details from you without the boys around.” 

 

Asami’s pain was still unbelievably fresh and yet she could not help the twinge of excitement at the opportunity to gush about Korra unabashedly for a few minutes. Opal wiggled her eyebrows and patted the bed next to her. Asami selected some clothes from the pile and put them on— fewer things to fold —then sat down next to her best friend.

 

She grabbed a wrinkled shirt and began to smooth it out with her hands. “So… how was it?” Opal pried without shame.

 

“How was what, exactly?” There was a lot to unravel. Specificity was important.

 

Opal raised a curious eyebrow and smirked. Then she pointed to the trail of marks on Asami’s neck. “The sex, silly.”

 

“Ah.” Asami nodded and smiled shyly to herself, privately remembering. 

 

Before she could piece together an answer, Opal’s eyebrows shot up. “Wowww. Asami Sato, goddess of sex, left speechless?”

 

Asami sputtered at the ridiculous assertion. “Goddess of sex? Opal what the hell are you talking about?”

 

“Oh don’t get coy with me.” Opal shoved Asami’s shoulder. “We lived together in college, remember? I have ears. And eyes. I saw enough women leaving the apartment without knowing up from down to understand.” Asami blushed furiously. “And don’t forget, I’m dating your ex’s brother. I got the scoop.”

 

“Ew!” Asami tossed the shirt she’d been working on straight at Opal’s face. “I did not need to know that Mako talked to Bo about me.” She grimaced.

 

Her best friend shrugged innocently and kept pushing. “So the sex was good then?” Asami turned away again, trying to hide her flush at the onslaught of images that surfaced in her mind. “C’monnn Asami I’m dying to know. She was so hot. Let me live vicariously through you pleeeaaase.” Opal clasped her hands together under her chin and trained wide glittery puppy dog eyes on her friend.

 

Trust me, I don’t think you’d want to be in my shoes right now. Despite the very real hurt that Asami wouldn’t have wished on anyone, there was plenty of thrill that had come from the last twenty-four hours she could talk about. “Okay. Yes. It was good.” Asami glanced sideways at Opal and let a private smile tug at the corners of her lips. “Really really good. Like… best ever good.”

 

Opal’s eyes glittered and widened, “I knew it!” She shook her head laughing, “I took one look at those gorgeous abs and I fucking knew she’d be an animal in the sack.”

 

Jesus, Opal. Asami lost her composure and broke down giggling at the gross oversimplification from her beaming friend.

 

“I told you she liked you back! When did you guys finally hook up? She broke up with Kuvira like last week, right?”

 

Asami sighed, the questions bringing her back down to harsh reality. “Yeah, they ended it last Saturday. Everything with us was… just last night.”

 

“Last night?!” Opal squawked. “You mean to tell me she left all of that,” she pointed at Asami’s neck, “and caused all of this,” she gestured at the red that still rimmed Asami’s eyes, “in one night?!”

 

Even though the weeks of pining, charged looks, and closeness were inextricable from the story, the answer was in fact pretty simple. Asami nodded. 

 

“Geez girl.” Opal shook her head. “No wonder you’re such a mess.

 

“Ha, thanks.” Asami’s facetious laugh sounded as empty as she felt and Opal looked at her with concern, all joking gone from her eyes.

 

After a minute of silently folding clothes, Opal asked sincerely, “What actually happened, Asami? How did you two leave things?”

 

Shakily, Asami answered what she knew she had to say. “There was nothing to leave.”

 

“That’s a lie.” Opal scoffed and Asami stared down at her lap. “I know you. You’re heartbroken. And you told me, albeit vaguely, how you felt about her. Love doesn’t just go away.”

 

Asami tensed at the word. Somehow hearing it out loud hurt worse and her eyes filled with tears again.

 

“Shit…” Opal breathed as she watched Asami shrink in front of her. “Korra felt the same way, didn’t she?”

 

Crestfallen, Asami nodded.

 

“So that’s it?!” Opal asked incredulously. “You find out you’re in love with each other and you finally let yourselves be together for one night and then you just leave? Nothing else to say or do or try or anything?!”

 

Miserable, Asami’s anger flared. “What the hell was I supposed to do?! Our lives are complete opposites! Opposite sides of the continent, opposite jobs, opposite worlds.” She heaved out a frustrated sigh and gave up, finally admitting the truth to someone who could understand it. “I do love her, Opal. It’s overwhelming. But we can’t. There’s too many reasons to count why we just… can’t.”

 

“Can’t or won’t?” Opal countered.

 

“Either!” Asami said exasperatedly.

 

“Give me one reason that’s good enough to explain why you’re letting yourself be so heartbroken without doing anything about it.” Her friend, so self-assured, always challenged Asami, pushed her to the brink. 

 

But Asami knew this time her defeat was real, irrefutable. “The five-year relationship she just got out of fell apart because her partner cheated on her while they were doing long distance.” Opal’s eyes widened and Asami continued. “On top of that, there’s nothing in New York for her and I can’t give up everything I need to do to keep Future Industries afloat. It’s my responsibility to maintain that legacy. It’s all I have left of my family…” Asami sniffed and pinched her eyes closed, heaving a sigh before finishing meekly. “Even if we did want to do something crazy and painful like try long distance, there would be no way for us to end up together in the same place. We have nowhere to go, Opal.” Asami watched a few tears drop onto her lap. 

 

“Okay, I only said one reason…” 

 

Asami scoffed pitifully. “She knows it too. We spent all night together and it was... surreal. Perfect. Better than anything I could have imagined. But she knew that was all we could have and didn’t question the inevitable. I know her well enough to know that if there was any chance to make things work, she wouldn’t have been able to hold herself back from saying something. But… there was nothing to say.”

 

“Oh dear…” Opal didn’t have any smart retort, nowhere left to push. She just reached forward and put a comforting hand on Asami’s knee, then scooted closer and scooped Asami into her arms and rocked her gently side to side. 

 

Shielded by her best friend, Asami let herself cry. “I-I’ve never felt so simultaneously close and so far from someone in my whole life, O…”

 

“It’ll be okay, hon.” Opal muttered soothingly. “You’ll get through this. We just have to take it one day at a time.”

 

Eventually, after several cathartically folded blurry shirts, the smell of pizza lured them both downstairs. When the brothers saw Asami’s freshly reddened eyes they both stood up urgently. 

 

“So this Korra person…” Mako narrowed his eyes. “Where could one find her? It appears she could use a little talking to.” He cracked the knuckles of his fist against his palm and Asami guffawed. Though more than capable of handling himself, Mako was the least threatening person she could imagine.

 

“Yeah!” Bo crossed his arms and puffed up his chest. “I liked her and all but that can change real fast.”

 

Asami chuckled and shook her head. She turned to Mako. “Funny thing is she said pretty much the same about you.” It felt like ages ago, but it had barely been over a month since she and Korra had sat at that bar on Valentine’s Day, opening up to one another in that impossibly easy way of theirs. 

 

The statement struck Mako right between the eyes. His brow wrinkled tight and he blinked, completely at a loss for what to say. Asami smiled and patted them each on a shoulder. “I love you guys, but it’s nothing like that. It’s just… unfortunate circumstances.”

 

“WHEW!” Bolin deflated dramatically. “Thank god. I really did like her.” Opal smiled gently and gave him a kiss on the cheek. He softened immediately and grinned at her like a buffoon. You two are meant for each other.  

 

The oven timer rang and Mako retrieved their fragrant dinner, serving it up to an eager crowd of three. Asami ate, surrounded by the people she considered her family, and let herself savor the warmth that they provided in her life. She let herself laugh and enjoy their company and told herself that with these souls around her she could make it through tonight, tomorrow, and the day after that. The rest she would have to handle is it came.

 

**

 

Curled up under a blanket and squished between Jinora and Naga on the couch, Korra could only think of one other place that had made her feel warmer. With a groan, she tried to push away the memory of waking up with Asami in her arms. 

 

She and Jinora had chosen some loud and explosive action flick to take Korra’s mind off things. It was failing miserably. Jinora had fallen asleep—which wow was it impressive she’d managed to pass out during a movie this cacophonous. Naga snored happily under Korra’s absentminded petting. And Korra watched the screen blankly, every second thought in her head bringing her back to Asami, Asami, Asami.

 

Ugh. Korra pulled out her phone as the credits rolled over the screen and began searching for a flight home to visit her parents. The ski season was ending soon, her and Jinora’s staff lease would be up, and Korra didn’t have much to go back to in Toronto. She’d packed all her stuff into a few boxes and left whatever she wouldn’t need at Kuvira’s apartment. Given the situation, she was seriously considering bailing on recovering her summer clothes and starting from scratch so she would never have to see the woman again.

 

Jinora stirred beside her and sat up sleepily. She glanced over Korra’s shoulder and perked up immediately. “Oh my god! Are you going after her?!”

 

“W-what?!” Korra whirled on her roommate. “What are you talking about?”

 

“You’re looking at flights!” Jinora grinned. 

 

“... to go home.” Korra explained. “To see my parents?”

 

“Oh.” She looked so disappointed. And now that Korra’s mind had taken the journey of imagining what it would feel like to chase Asami to New York, she was disappointed, too. Damnit.

 

“Y-you think I should go after her?” Korra asked weakly.

 

“I…” Jinora pursed her lips. “I don’t know, Korra… You know me, I love a good rom-com. But you have to figure out what’s best for you.”

 

“Well that’s not helpful.” The instructor grumbled and Jinora laughed.

 

“Okay… well what do you want?” Jinora offered a different approach.

 

“I want… things to be easy. Hell, I want it to be four months ago and I want to be single when I meet her so things can happen the way they were supposed to.” She sighed.

 

“Do you think going after her will make things easier?”

 

No. Korra could not lie to herself and say otherwise. She’d be running away if she went to New York. Running into open arms and comfort—and love, surely love—but away from the life she needed to start figuring out for herself. 

 

Korra had reached an inescapable decision point. She could very well start training again, try to recover her previous rank and maybe make it into the Games again. Or she could officially let go of that part of her life and keep making strides as an instructor; she’d taken a giant one already this month. What she couldn’t do was keep running away from the rest of her life. She had all the ingredients to make a fresh start and she needed to take a step forward.

 

She reached across herself and grabbed her arm, letting her hand rest on the arrow tattooed on her tricep. It dawned on her then that Asami probably intuited all of this already. She’d been so excruciatingly supportive that she knew if she stayed in the picture, Korra wouldn’t be able to decide for herself. So, like the saint she was, Asami had removed herself from the equation. For Korra as much as for herself. Asami had her own battles to fight at home; she had to keep a multi-billion dollar corporation afloat for Christ's sake.

 

No, going after her would not make things easier. It would make it impossible for both of them to do the things they needed to do. 

 

“It won’t, will it?” Jinora asked after Korra’s silence dragged for several minutes.

 

Resigned and miserable, Korra shook her head ‘no.’ Jinora leaned forward and pulled her into another hug. “It’s okay, Korra.” She whispered softly. “It’ll hurt for a while, but you know you’re doing what’s best for both of you and that will help, I promise.”

 

After a few minutes and a few more tears, Jinora released her so she could order them dinner. She made plans to have Korra over for dinner at Tenzin’s the next day, to give Korra a heartwarming dose of bumbling children and family. It always helped, no matter what was on her mind. 

 

As she watched Jinora make arrangements, Korra stole another glance at her phone. Unable to contain her curiosity, she typed “New York City” in the destination field and hesitated for a second before clicking ‘Search.’ The fantasy shattered when she saw the flight prices. Right.

 

Korra closed the browser forcefully and stood up from the couch to shake off the daze and take Naga for her evening walk. Better to save the cash so she could get herself to New Zealand. That would make Asami proud.

 

Chapter Text

“You’re being consumed by this, Asami. If there’s truly nothing to be done, then you need to find a way to move forward. I suggest writing her a letter. Lay out everything you’re thinking and feeling.” Her therapist encouraged. 

 

“...I don’t know, Su.” The CEO looked down at her hands clasped in her lap. “It’s been a few weeks and we haven’t spoken at all. It doesn’t feel fair to dump everything on her like that.”

 

“It’s not for sending.” Suyin shook her head. 

 

Was it weird that her best friend’s mother was her therapist? Probably. Did Asami Sato give a damn? Not a one. She’d searched high and low and still the best relationship she’d established with a therapist was with Dr. Beifong. Opal adored the idea. Something about keeping all of Asami’s secrets in the family. 

 

“Then what’s the point?” Asami questioned. She always had questions. Why bother doing something if there was no point?

 

“To get it out of your head. So you can stop stewing.” Su answered plainly. “You have a tendency to keep things you’re uncertain about locked away, until you feel like you’ve sufficiently figured them out.”

 

Asami blinked at the woman. It was uncanny, really, her ability to call Asami out so accurately sometimes. And it was why she kept coming back.

 

Su had more to say. “That strategy breaks down when it’s something layered and complex like grief or, in this case, something without a solution you can reason your way into. And then it festers and eats away at you, eventually bleeding into your every day.” She raised a pointed brow and, at Asami’s hesitation, added, “Think of it like making a list. When you have too much to do to keep straight in your head, you write it all down. This is the same process.”

 

“I-I can try that.” The engineer nodded. 

 

“Don’t worry, I won’t make you show me.” Su winked at her mischievously. “You can put any details you want in there.” Aaand still related to Opal.

 

Asami couldn’t help but laugh; she loved the woman dearly for how she managed to be direct and professional while still keeping their relationship lighthearted, honest, and fun. They ended the session a little early on that note, Suyin pointing out that once Asami had an assignment, she’d be distracted for the rest of the hour anyway. Dr. Beifong made a note to add a few more minutes to their next appointment and they said goodbye with a warm hug.

 

As always, Su was right. Asami headed straight back to her office, catching her assistant on his way out. He looked bewildered and a little unsure of whether or not he was still allowed to leave now that the boss had reappeared.

 

“Go, Tariq.” The CEO smiled at him earnestly. “I’ve just got a few things to take care of; nothing you need to worry about. See you tomorrow.”

 

“O-okay Miss Sato. See you tomorrow.” He waved awkwardly as he collected his things and walked briskly to the elevator. Asami wondered distantly if he would be as intimidated by her if he knew what she was here to do.

 

Nevermind that. She opened the door to her office and settled in behind her desk—her father’s desk. A few things had been redecorated or replaced when she’d taken over, but the desk was special. It had been in the family for generations. She’d played under it as a little girl when her grandfather ran the company and sat behind it working with her father on all sorts of pet projects as she grew up. 

 

This desk is where she learned how to focus. It was a place she felt safe. And she firmly believed it drew out her best work. Outside of the garage, that was. Superstitions aside, it was a comfortable place to sit, think, and write.

 

Okay. So. Pen or keyboard? Paper or screen? She preferred paper but considering the sheer number of things that were already knocking against each other at the forefront of her mind, Asami thought it better to take advantage of her high words-per-minute rate and stick to her keyboard. Stop dilly-dallying and get to it.

 

Asami took a deep breath.

 

Korra.

 

Okay, decent start. The next line took several minutes to pin down.

 

I love you.

 

Why did something so monumental look so pathetic sitting there alone on the page? And why did all of the things bouncing in her brain all of a sudden disappear now that she was working?

 

Frustrated, Asami opened the bottom drawer of the magical desk and retrieved an old bottle of scotch. She took two, maybe three, large swings and shoved it away. Try again. Stream of consciousness this time, no stops.

 

Korra, I love you.

 

I should have said it. I still think about that every day. I don’t know that it would have made any difference in the way things turned out, but I wish I’d had the courage to tell you. And I wish I’d had the courage to let you tell me.

 

Because, even though I wouldn’t let you say anything, you made it so irrefutably clear that you feel the same way. I don’t have words to describe everything you made me feel that night. I have never been so wholly consumed by anyone, never wanted anyone so completely before. Hell, I had never given myself to anyone so completely before. I had never wanted to. Until you. 

 

Long before that night, you crawled your way into my soul and built a home for yourself in my heart. Without even warning me. (How rude.) I was hopeless for you before I even knew what it was like to have you. 

 

And then you came over that night and… how can I put it? You ruined me. You dwarfed every experience I’d had before and made me certain that nothing new will ever compare. I wasn’t prepared for how incredibly right it would feel to be with you. 

 

‘Right’ is the only word I can think of. You called it perfect. And I agreed, then. That night, those hours with you were perfect. But we’re not perfect. The fact I’m writing this, with no intention of showing you or anyone else, from thousands of miles away, unable to think of a way to bridge the chasm I’ve created between us to protect myself… it makes it painfully evident that we’re not perfect.

 

I wish we were. Because I do think we are right. Everything about you felt right to me. Even as friends, spending time with you quickly became the best part of my day. And when we got to be together everything fell into place, like I was right where I was supposed to be. The way you held me, the way we slept, the way you kissed me… everything felt right. 

 

I don’t know where to go from here. Everything around me feels abjectly wrong in your absence. I keep trying to think of a way to find you again, a way to make things work. But there isn’t one. Not with the legacy I have to carry on and all the places you’ve yet to go. And so the only way out is forward (I keep thinking about that arrow of yours, whenever I say that), away from each other. I’ve wondered if it’s possible to fall out of love with you. I guess time will tell. Right now, it’s the last thing I want to do. 

 

I wish we had more time.

 

Yours, ‘Sami

 

P.S. Can I just say? You’re an excellent kisser. I mean, mind-blowing, really. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget that.

 

Her fingers hovered uselessly over her keyboard for several seconds after she finished, agonizing over what else to say. She put her hands down and made the mistake of reading over what she’d written. The moisture that had built up in her eyes as she wrote overflowed as she read. Yes, it was a little embarrassing. But it was also heartfelt and true and utterly hopeless. Not least because she knew she’d never get the chance to tell Korra any of it.

 

**

 

Korra had hugged more people that day than she could count, but none came close to making her as happy as the enveloping embrace of her parents. She squeezed her mom’s narrow shoulders tightly and disappeared into her father’s broad chest as they welcomed her home. 

 

“It’s so good to have you back, honey.” Senna ran loving fingers through Korra’s hair and her welcoming smile did wonders to replace the aching memory of Asami’s hands doing just that. This memory was better. This one she could keep. 

 

Korra smiled broadly. “It’s good to be home.”

 

Spring was still far from the trees this far north, even though the crowds of skiers and snowboarders back in Whistler had long begun to dwindle. She felt at home in the chill and raised her collar against the wind as her dad draped a thick arm around her and walked her into the house.

 

The smell of her favorite meal filled her lungs as she entered and the comfort of her childhood home engulfed her entirely. Her dad ran off to deposit her suitcase to her room while her mom took her coat and dragged her into the kitchen to hand her a hot toddy.

 

Calm, warm, and comfortable, her heart slowly filling, Korra sat with her parents in the kitchen and spoke at length with them about the season. She’d barely seen them over the last several months and they were eager to hear about her Level 3 certification, the skiing, the teaching, Tenzin’s family, everything. They’d spent a few weeks of their winter even further north at their cabin, ice fishing, hiking, and snowmobiling, true creatures of the cold. 

 

Nearly knocking his chair over from size alone, as he always did, Tonraq stood up to get a refill. “So,” he said as he poured a hearty helping of whiskey into his mug, “Kuvira’s no more, eh?”

 

“Tonraq!” Senna chastised as Korra sputtered into her drink. He turned back to the table with an innocent shrug and made to walk back. He paused, returned to the counter, grabbed the entire bottle of whiskey, and brought it back with him to the table.

 

He placed it right in front of Korra with a lopsided smile as he sat. “Can’t say that I mind.”

 

Her mom looked at him incredulously then turned apologetic eyes to Korra, who was on the brink of falling apart with laughter. She’d known her father wasn’t particularly fond of Kuvira. She also loved the way he didn’t even pretend to hide it while her mom did her best to be polite. I love you guys.

 

Korra chuckled and squeezed her mother’s hand reassuringly before looking at her dad. “Kuvira’s no more.” She confirmed. 

 

Tonraq grinned and raised his glass and Senna rolled her eyes at her husband. She gazed at Korra sympathetically. “And how are you doing, honey? Are you okay?”

 

Kuvira’s not the problem. “Yeah, I’m alright.” Korra nodded. It was half true. “I think it died long before we actually broke up. Between that and the long distance it turns out… things didn’t change much for me after the break-up.” Except for Asami. “I just still haven’t figured out how I’m going to get my stuff from her place in Toronto.”

 

“Oh don’t you worry about that, Korra.” Tonraq tipped his glass back. “As soon as you told us, Kuvira and I had a nice chat and I encouraged her to ship over all your things. It should all be in your room.”

 

“You what?!” Korra squawked. That was mortifying. Satisfying and definitely something she wished to have witnessed, but mostly mortifying. Korra’s father could be quite frightening when he chose to be.

 

“Relax, sweetie.” Senna appeased. “He was… very polite. For the most part.”

 

Tonraq harrumphed and they all laughed together, filling Korra’s heart even further.

 

It nearly turned to ice when her dad leaned an elbow on the table and pointed straight at her. “Your breakup wouldn’t have anything to do with this Asami girl, now would it?”

 

“W-what?!” Korra’s eyes blew wide open as she squeaked out the question.

 

“If it did, remind me to send her a gift basket.” Tonraq sat back in his chair, immensely pleased.

 

“H-how do you guys know about Asami?” Korra asked, now actually mortified and completely taken aback.

 

“You mentioned her every time we spoke on the phone, honey.” Senna smiled at her softly.

 

“And we didn’t speak that often.” Tonraq added before leaning forward again. “So we figured she was kinda special.” He winked and grinned. “But you never actually told us if there was anything to know… Is there?”

 

“Uh…” Korra had no idea how to answer. How could she explain that there wasn’t actually any news to share about the person that occupied her mind nearly every minute of every day? She sighed and looked down into her mug. “No… there’s nothing to know.”

 

Korra could talk about her for the rest of the evening if they let her. ‘Special’ was an understatement with which Korra was very familiar. She could tell them about how kind and caring Asami had been, how she’d helped Korra prepare for her exam, how smart and accomplished and quirky she was, and how she’d charmed everyone Korra knew into adoring her. Especially Korra. Except the most important thing—that Asami made Korra happier than anyone—was in fact, nothing at all. It didn’t matter anymore.

 

Korra loved her—still so intensely—and hadn’t heard from her in weeks. They hadn’t set any terms of engagement when they said goodbye, pained and sorrowful as it was. But now, over a month later, Korra missed Asami terribly and ached to know anything about her life. Understandably, Asami had a very limited social media presence. Short of going straight to the source, Korra had no way of discerning anything at all. And yet, she could not bring herself to cross the line and reach out. What if Asami had moved on? Or wanted the distance? The possibilities hurt Korra too much to even consider taking the risk of a first step, so she sat back and did nothing. 

 

Her parents stared at her with concern and shared a knowing look between them. Korra eyed them suspiciously, worried they would catch on to her turmoil and pry. The last thing Korra wanted to do right now was remember and reopen wounds that had just barely begun to close. She worked hard every day to put the constant reminders of Asami aside so she could function. And now that she was here, she didn’t want to let the anguish intrude on the comfort of her home and her parent’s warmth. She had hoped to let her heart stay somewhat full for a little while. 

 

They seemed to understand. Senna changed the subject to their own winter adventures and Tonraq regaled them with stories of their most impressive catches of the season. Korra laughed merrily at her mom’s corrections of her father’s exaggerations and melted at the unabashed fondness that overflowed between them. The fountain of love in the house washed over her and helped round off the sharper, more painful edges of the last few weeks. Korra smiled, letting the joy of her family slowly patch up her heart. 

 

She went to bed late, Naga following sleepily behind her as she brushed her teeth and washed her face. Her parents kissed her goodnight at the door to her bedroom and she was still smiling as she shoved herself under the covers. 

 

It was a mistake to check her phone. Before knowing she had an email, she would have slept soundly and pleasantly. After she saw who’d sent it, she didn’t stand a chance.

 

Hi Korra,

 

It’s been a while. I hope you’re doing well. I don’t mean to overstep, but I wanted to share something that I thought you’d appreciate. 

 

Opal and I went to a flying trapeze class earlier this week. I can’t say that I blame you for getting hooked! It was absolutely exhilarating. Mako and Bolin joined us, too. Believe it or not, Bolin was a natural. The instructors loved him. I think he’s going back next week to fly again. 

 

Anyway, I thought of you… I know you said you taught trapeze during the summers. Is that what you’ll be doing over the next few months?

 

Hope all is well and that you had a great end to the ski season. Spring is beginning to shine here in New York. It’s lovely, but I have to admit I miss the snow and all the air we had in Whistler.

 

-Asami

 

P.S. Does Whistler have a closing day Pond Skim?

 

Korra reread the note until it grew blurry in her vision. She swiped away the tears from her eyes and read it again. The time stamp showed midnight local time, which was… three in the morning in New York. How could someone write something so succinct and professional at three in the morning?

 

Don’t be stupid. This was Asami. How could she not?

 

Except Asami had emailed her at three in the morning. ‘It’s been a while.’ It had been. ‘I thought of you…’  

 

Korra was wrecked. The note was at once painfully distant and yet so utterly Asami—so tentative and unassuming purely for the sake of consideration—that Korra could practically feel all the words she’d not written.

 

Asami had, in her graceful, elegant way, left a door open for Korra to walk through. They could stay in touch, if Korra wanted. And if there was any doubt that Asami was struggling as much as Korra, it was dispelled by a few choice phrases, a few hesitations that Korra clung to like her last lifeline for hope. 

 

Korra turned onto her side and put her phone away. It was too fresh to respond. She bunched up her comforter under her nose as a few more tears found their way down her cheeks before she fell asleep, once again, thinking of Asami.

 

‘I thought of you…’

 

**

 

Clang!

 

“Better, Sato.” Brian nodded. He walked over and stood in front of the barbell Asami had just dropped from her snatch. “Now, try again. This time focus on keeping the bar closer to your body during the pull.” He widened his stance not three feet away from her and grinned. “I’m going to stand right here. If you let the bar go too far out, you’ll hit me.” A thick eyebrow quirked upward in a challenge. “Don’t hit me.”

 

Gritting her teeth, Asami aligned herself to the barbell, grip wide, chest tall. She sucked in a sharp breath, and drove through her heels. The bar flew up between them and Brian tucked his chin out of the way just in the nick of time as Asami ducked underneath the momentarily weightless barbell to catch it. 

 

She rose from her quarter squat nearly laughing, the weight above her pressuring her breath to stay contained. She stepped back and dropped the bar, bumper plates muffling the otherwise cacophonous clinking. “I almost got you.” 

 

Brian shrugged and uncrossed his arms with a broad smile. “But you didn’t. That was your best one yet. Keep working on that.” He nodded at her then went to help another one of the students in the small class.

 

Asami had quite taken to Olympic lifting. Not that she was any sort of prodigy or leviathan; she’d just barely gotten her bearings over the last couple weeks. Hands here, pull this way, hold your body just so, when you do X the bar does Y… every movement was a world to unpack. Which was exactly why it was the only fitness activity, short of playing rugby again, that occupied her brain enough to keep it from spiraling. It happened less frequently these days, the distressing and dismal reminder of Korra’s absence and radio silence. But if she set herself to jogging or doing yoga or anything that didn’t demand precise focus on every muscle in her body, that’s exactly where her mind went.

 

Korra hadn’t responded. That tentative, vulnerable olive branch Asami extended hung lonesomely in Asami’s ‘Sent’ folder with nothing to show for itself. Granted, she’d piled on layers of pretense and formality to hide behind. But the act of reaching out itself had required heaving a mountain of emotion into less than 150 words and then pushing it off a cliff of self-doubt.

 

And nothing.

 

After a few days, Asami made excuses. After a week, the excuses grew increasingly thin and decreasingly believable. After two, shame and hurt replaced the pretexts as Asami conceded to the most likely explanation that Korra simply elected not to engage.

 

The next snatch cleared her brain of space for Korra. As did the subsequent handful of sets and by the time she awoke to the world beyond the barbell, it was well into the evening. Brian had hung back after the other students trickled out of class and Asami asked him to spot a few more lifts. When you give a perfectionist a new task… 

 

She checked the time and looked at her coach apologetically. “Oh wow, it’s late. I should get going.” 

 

He smiled kindly and stood from his perch on a box. “Good job today. Snatches look great; not a single bad one on this last set.”

 

“Thanks for sticking around. Didn’t mean to make you stay so late.” Asami busied herself with racking her weights and Brian helped her without hesitation.

 

“You seemed pretty hellbent on getting into it tonight. I’m not one to stand in the way of a motivated lifter.” He grinned at her as he carried her barbell back to the rack. “Seems like you had something on your mind anyway. Getting kinks out of movements always helps clear them out of my head, too. I get it.”

 

Exposed, Asami blushed. She couldn’t help her bashful sideways glance at being seen through so thoroughly. A shy chuckle tumbled from her lips as she smiled. “It’s been a… tough couple of weeks.”

 

“Well, I’m always here if you need to lift your way out of your head.” Brian said genially.

 

There was an offer. Plain and clear if Asami felt inclined to take it. Friendly and noncommittal if she chose not to. 

 

A less weary Asami might have accepted.

 

She smiled broadly, genuine but sedate, “Thanks, Brian. You were incredibly helpful today; those snatches felt really solid for once. I promise I won’t make you stay late again!”

 

He laughed jovially and waved off her concern, brushing the potential awkwardness away with his hand. A less wary Asami might have let herself enjoy his warm, cheery nature. 

 

She helped him close up the gym for the evening, the least she could do, and they waved an easy goodbye in the parking garage.

 

A quick scroll through her recent notifications before entering her car found her paralyzed with a hand hovering shakily above the door. She swallowed thickly and debated whether or not to unlock her phone that very second to read the email titled ‘Re: Hello from New York.’

 

In the car. In the car.

 

A forceful shake of her head and a reluctant click of her lock button allowed her enough presence of mind to climb into the driver’s seat where she took a few lurching breaths before holding them altogether as she opened her email.

 

Hey Asami!

 

It’s great to hear from you! Don’t worry, you could never overstep :-)

 

I’m so glad you tried out trapeze. I knew you’d love it! I laughed so hard picturing Bolin flying up there; wish I could’ve seen it!

 

I think I’m going to miss flying a bit this summer. I’m actually going to New Zealand to teach skiing during their winter!! No trapeze, but I’ll get to keep playing in the snow and maybe I’ll catch a rugby match or two ;-)

 

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks getting the job lined up and preparing to go, so I’m sorry for taking so long to respond. I’m really glad you reached out.

 

Ski season ended great, though I missed Whistler’s Pond Skim this year because I left a little early. Didn’t get to defend my championship title. Next time.

 

I also saw that the Stallion is finally on the market - I’ve already seen a couple driving around my hometown. They look awesome! 

 

<3

Korra

 

A million thoughts swam in Asami’s mind as tears swam in her eyes. New Zealand. She could practically feel Korra’s thrumming excitement encased in those two understated exclamations. Pride swelled in her chest and a teary smile split her cheeks. God, and the heart-wrenching sweetness that infused everything Korra did had not failed to show even in her affable words. ‘You could never overstep.’ ‘Maybe I’ll catch a rugby match or two.’ Her remembrance of Asami’s car. ‘I’m really glad you reached out.’

 

All of it was so undeniably Korra. Down to the tiny heart-shaped signature that tore Asami’s beating heart in two, each half much lonelier than those two innocent characters shoved together to represent a word, an idea that had once embodied a whole world for the two of them.

 

That notion, so deliberately and wordlessly communicated on their last and only night together, felt too lightly thrown onto the page. There, it taunted Asami with what once lived, blinding and bright, that had now evidently faded enough to be expressible and tossed like an afterthought at the end of an email. Maybe that wasn’t how Korra had intended it. But, so perfunctorily and simplistically typified, the love with which Korra signed her note advised Asami that perhaps it was time to begin letting go. Forward, Sato. She pushed away the thought of that geometric arrow that always reminded Korra, and now her, of which direction to go.

Chapter Text

A gargantuan puff of snow exploded to life around her and obscured the world for the exhilarating second it took to absorb the impact.

 

“Woo-hoooo!” Korra hooted victoriously as she landed her double back-flip in a de facto cloud of white. The lofty feeling of bouncy powder caught her skis as she slid to her awaiting—and cheering—companions. She looked over her shoulder at the rocky outcrop they’d chosen for their fun. Not too tall, but just enough to get respectable air if desired. Korra desired.

 

“Again?!” She grinned breathlessly at the group as she approached. Launching herself off cliffs on skis never seemed to get old.

 

“Hell yeah!” Kian nodded exuberantly. “I got an epic video, Korra.” He announced with a smile as he stuffed his phone back into his jacket. Kian always filmed; he claimed he had the best camera and best eye for these things. No one seemed to disagree. “You should post this one! It’s really good!” He also always wanted to share the videos which… Korra didn’t feel quite so enthused about.

 

Deflecting, Korra flashed him a noncommittal grin and turned to the rest of the group. “Think we can get one more run in before the tow rope closes?”

 

“Yeah but we gotta fly down there to make it.” June chimed in.

 

Korra flashed her eyebrows—always forgetting those damned goggles—and smiled devilishly. “Well what are we waiting for?”

 

With two thrusts of her ski poles, she was on her way, confident the others would fall behind her in seconds. A gleeful smile split her cheeks as she picked up enough speed for buoyancy and her skis began to float into each turn. Aw yes. Another whoop sprung joyously from her throat and her smile widened as she accelerated.

 

Not knowing the ski patrol team in the area had its downsides. She couldn’t roll up and catch the last chair up with her best friend to squeeze in one last breakneck top to bottom run. But hell. A mountain with nothing but tow ropes (no chair lifts!), ungroomed terrain, fresh tracks for days, and too remote for the average skier to venture to? Full of powder in August? She’d give up all her connections to spend her day off in a place like this. 

 

Well, all except one. Which... She’d given up anyway.

 

“Korra.” Daniel’s call redirected her from the spiral she’d almost tumbled into as they slid to a stop at the base of the rope which was, indeed, still running. Score.

 

Gratefully, she turned to him with a smile. “Hey Danny. Great run, right?”

 

“Mhm.” He nodded. “That was amazing back there.”

 

She couldn’t help feeling rather chuffed and a lopsided grin plastered itself on her face. “Thanks.”

 

“And I don’t just mean daredevil, full send, ‘gnarly dude,’ kind of amazing.”

 

She laughed at his mocking tone. “What do you mean then?”

 

“I mean your form was spot on. Not a flicker of doubt, everything super tight. I couldn’t see the landing cuz, you know,” he waved a hand towards the bountiful piles of light-as-air snow around them, “but I’m certain it was perfect too.”

 

“Aw shucks, Danny.” Korra pushed him away by the shoulder, feigning the bashfulness in her voice but thankful that her goggles hid her genuine blush. Most other backcountry and freestyle riders didn’t pick up on those sorts of details. Competitive skiers and snowboarders did. Coaches did.

 

“Have you ever competed?” He asked more seriously. Korra paled and rummaged around her head for an answer to no avail. She hadn’t shared that part of her life with her new friends yet. “Because I really think you could—”

 

June and Kian skidded to a stop just behind him, showering his back with a wave of snow and laughing madly with delight. “Damn! What a legendary day!” Kian exclaimed through his grin. “The snow is killer today.” June bobbed her helmet vigorously up and down in agreement.

 

“Let’s head up!” She said hastily and skated past them to hook into the tow rope.

 

Thanks for the rescue. Korra didn’t spare Daniel a glance as she eagerly chased behind June. Another benefit of the tow rope? No awkward chairlift conversations about how technical Korra’s freestyle was. She’d really have to get around to telling them sometime though.

 

The last run was, infallibly, the best one. Bent on squeezing every drop of enjoyment they could from the day, the gang took their time to seek out a few extra outcrops for jumps and Kian captured some sensational footage of their hairiest tricks. Korra pulled off a maneuver she hadn’t tried since the first few rounds at the Games and was entirely too hyped to notice her friends gaping at her when she skied up to them. 

 

“Okay, that one you need to post.” Kian muttered, shaking his head.

 

“Seriously, Kor.” June agreed. “That was unbelievable.” Korra hadn’t decided yet if she liked the nickname. 

 

Daniel just studied her. 

 

“Uh… I’ll think about it!” She called over her shoulder, already sliding away from them as she chose to beat a hasty retreat before they could ask any more questions. 

 

The respite only lasted a few minutes. 

 

“Where did that come from?” June asked eagerly as they piled into the car they’d driven in together.

 

Kian grasped her shoulders from behind the passenger seat. “Seriously. That was some high level stuff.”

 

“You’ve competed before, haven’t you?” Daniel turned to her from the driver’s seat with a knowing smile.

 

Sighing, Korra slouched in her seat. “I have… yeah.”

 

“Well that explains it!” Kian chuckled.

 

“Where?” June asked.

 

“Yeah, and were you ranked?” Kian followed up eagerly. Daniel, for his part, glanced sidelong at Korra every few seconds.

 

“I… uh…” Korra fiddled with her zipper. She heaved out another sigh.

 

“We promise we won’t laugh at you if it was just some no-name event.” Kian teased.

 

“I doubt it was a no-name event if Kor did anything like that.” June elbowed him in the back seat.

 

“I…” Korra sank further into her seat. What was she so afraid of? These people wouldn’t think differently of her. They’d welcomed her to the instructor family at Treble Cone warmly and eagerly, opened up to her about their own lives and backgrounds without hesitation. She owed them the same courtesy (and had, for the most part, extended it); she had no reason to be so fearful of their judgement. “I was at the Games in Sochi.” 

 

She’d barely mumbled it but the expectant silence in the vehicle carried the sound to every awaiting ear.

 

“Well SHIT!” Kian’s exclamation boomed between laughs. “I didn’t know we were in the presence of royalty!” He teased and shook Korra’s shoulders.

 

The lighthearted jab smoothed the edges of Korra’s tension and she found herself smiling as they teased her all the way back to their hotel about how she ought to be the one leading the Freestyle classes at the ski school and begged her to teach them all she knew.

 

Once in their room, they changed swiftly into their swimsuits and transported a handful (read: case) of beers to the hotel hot tub to soak off the day. Kian and June prodded her eagerly but respectfully about her experience at the Games and Korra found it not so turbulent to remember anymore. With distance from the tethers of Kuvira and her once paralyzing fear of jumping, Korra discovered she could parse through her memories calmly, without pressuring herself, and regard them all—good, bad, and horrifying—with silent appreciation for how they’d each impacted her life. She could share them without hurting.

 

The freedom from that panic made her heart soar and she smiled broadly and toasted with her new little family. A nagging thought that she filed for later suggested she include this tidbit (which, for all intents and purposes, felt like a rather monumental personal victory) in her next email to Asami.

 

“So did you retire?” Daniel asked, cracking open a second (third?) beverage. Burly and broad as he was, he’d be into five or six before feeling any effects.

 

“Not… officially?” Korra answered with a distinguishable uptick in her pitch.

 

June chuckled and prodded her calf underwater. “What does that even mean?” June was a tiny thing, strong but petite, and she was well into tipsy territory midway through her second beverage.

 

“I…” Korra cleared her throat, expecting to find it closing up at the memory of the accident. No tunnel vision came. No scraping, cracking, crashing sounds thundered in her ears. Only the sound of the hot tub jets and the artificially blue glow of the water greeted her senses. A smile of relief tugged at the corners of her lips. She looked up at her friends, almost giddy with the absence of the black hole she’d been so accustomed to engulfing her at the merest mention of her accident. She grinned, about to explain, then realized a shit-eating smile might not make the most sense in this context. After a clear of her throat and a sip of beer to neutralize her expression, she answered.

 

“I clipped my ski tips on the edge of the halfpipe at the end of a run.” The three winced around her, knowing instinctively how much speed and air she’d have built up in the final jumps of a run. While her friends cringed, Korra found previously untapped reservoirs of calm and courage that allowed her to revisit the moment with a clarity she’d never had before. It was hard to keep the smile of relief, of this momentous internal conquest, to herself. “I crashed hard, injured my spine… not exactly a ‘planned’ retirement. I’m sure it’s on YouTube somewhere.” It was. Korra had played it for herself with agonizing repetition during her recovery.

 

“Damn…” Kian muttered solemnly. June blinked at her but nodded her understanding slowly.

 

“That’s quite a story.” Daniel’s tone hadn’t changed at all through the evening, still patiently but pointedly curious. And very steady. “Looks like you’re in fighting shape again though.” At that he cocked an eyebrow at her, as if expecting a challenge.

 

Out of habit she almost rose to it, almost reinforced to herself and those around her that she was not ‘at 100%.’ But what the hell did that even mean anyway? In all honesty, today she felt closer to 100% than she had since the day she’d jumped again for the first time. Since that day with Asami in the snow. She recognized the feelings of that day better now, understanding the heady mix of adrenaline, attraction, and affection and how it coursed through her veins like fire and propelled her through her fears, shattering them as she went. Today was none of that. Today was just Korra. Flying and free and strong.

 

She grinned at Daniel and blinked back the image of Asami that popped in her head, smiling proudly. I should tell her about this too.

 

“You know what? I feel a lot more in ‘fighting shape’ than I have in a long time.” No more hiding her broad smile. “Can you guys believe that I was only able to jump for the first time since the accident like six months ago?”

 

That seemed to surprise Daniel. He’d been rather unemotive all night behind his steely curiosity, but that nugget moved him. Kian and June made their disbelief known more loudly, but Danny’s eyebrows shot up high.

 

“It’s impressive you’ve recovered so much skill so quickly.” He said pensively.

 

“Yeah… really impressive.” June drawled. Korra would need to make sure this was her last beer.

 

“Seriously, that’s so awesome Korra.” Kian clapped a hand on her shoulder and gave her one of his classic wide smiles. The man could make anyone grin when he looked at them like that—his expression brimmed with ingenuity and contagious joy. “I’m glad I got to witness you in fighting shape.”

 

“Think you’ll get back into it? Compete again?” Daniel asked innocently. Though Korra detected a vein of earnestness and interest pulsing beneath the surface of his words.

 

“I honestly don’t know.” She glanced down and watched her hand move patterns under the water in front of her. “I love instructing. Got my Level 3 in March and it was incredible. And it brought me here with you guys!” She looked around at them, meeting each of their eyes with a smile. “Part of me always felt like going back but I’m also… not sure if it’s what I want my life to look like.”

 

“It’s not for life.” Danny said, more fervor in his words now. He shook his head and sighed. “I’ve met so many athletes who think that way. They spend their entire young lives consumed with training, competition, and winning that they don’t see the world outside. It ruins them. Especially as they approach the end of their careers.”

 

“Tell me about it…” Korra mumbled. She’d had a very rude induction into this concept at a much younger age than most of the athletes he referred to.

 

“But I think the soundest athletes are the ones that don’t see things that way. The ones that know there’s more to life than the slopes or the next trick and want to partake in that outside life eventually. Kinda like you, Korra.” Korra blinked at him, shocked at the surge of conviction in his voice.

 

“W-what do you mean?” She asked quietly. Kian and June both turned to face Daniel, eyes expectantly reinforcing the question.

 

“You’ve already ‘retired,’ so to speak. You know it’s not the end of life and you found something for yourself outside training. Wanting life outside of Olympic sports is not incompatible with wanting to train for one. You can want both. And,” he raised his beer, “you can have both.” He shrugged simply. “It’s just a matter of timing.”

 

‘You can want both. And you can have both.’ Now there was an idea worth pondering.

 

**

 

Asami rarely frequented social media. The PR team at Future Industries implied heavy-handedly that they preferred to vet any posts she made in accounts bearing her name. Considering the hassle, her desire to share had dwindled from barely there to nonexistent. She didn’t have much to share about anyway. 

 

Every once in a while she’d scroll through with her personal anonymous account, scanning absentmindedly for life updates from friends with whom she’d fallen out of touch. That’s how she found herself stopped at the door to her office, grinning foolishly and rewatching a video she’d already seen a half dozen times.

 

‘I flew, ‘Sami.’ She could practically feel the wonder in Korra’s voice thrumming through her nerves at the memory of that day. The day Korra had taken her first leap. Also the day Asami recognized the depth of her feelings for her friend. Caught up in Korra’s joy and enthusiasm, she’d been unable to deny the pull Korra had on her.

 

But that wasn’t what made her smile now. She watched, for what must have been the eighth time, a small figure launch herself off what amounted to a snowy precipice and spin in ways one could only imagine seeing on television. Korra had left the sound on for entertainment value and Asami chuckled as she heard the cameraman’s whispered ‘holy shit’ once again in her office. She grinned harder at the giant cloud Korra tore through as she landed, and smiled fondly at the wicked lopsided grin plastered on Korra’s face as she skidded triumphantly to whomever had filmed.

 

Asami had never witnessed Korra at full throttle before. Seeing it now, on a screen from the other side of the world, left a bittersweet ache in her heart. Nearly six months after parting ways, after Asami’s day to day had grown normal, demanding, and fulfilling, she still missed Korra. It wasn’t the livid, pulsing frustration and hurt she’d endured after first returning home, but Korra’s absence still lived within her and the muted sadness surged occasionally when the world graced Asami with an experience she knew would make Korra smile. 

 

But that smile, so incandescently happy that it brightened her entire screen, unstained by self-doubt or hesitation or fear, also made Asami’s love for Korra soar. The swelling pride she felt for Korra’s accomplishment, for how far she’d gone and that she’d carried herself there, that pride warmed Asami to her core. And she knew, no matter how lingering the ache of her absence, that Korra was right where she should be. 

 

Asami checked her calendar. To her pleasant surprise, she’d been given a whole thirty minutes before her next meeting so she could have lunch in peace. Tariq, no longer quite so intimidated by the ‘big boss’ after they’d gotten to know each other, had become prone to carving out these short but invaluable slots in Asami’s day for her mind to settle. For her part, Asami brought him coffee and pastries whenever she had a meeting outside the office, fueling both his and her addictions to the caffeinated indulgence. 

 

“Tariq, you’re the best!” She shouted through the door as she walked to her desk. By the time she got to her chair and opened her laptop she had an email from him, subject ‘You’re Welcome.’

 

With a chuckle, she pulled up her personal email account. Letting her joy guide her fingers, she typed quickly and honestly.

 

Korra,

 

It seems like you’re having such a great time in NZ. It makes me so happy to hear that you’re feeling so at peace with everything you’ve been through. I’m really proud of you :-)

 

I saw your video on Instagram today, too. Wow! I mean I know you’d been in the Olympics and everything, but seeing you kill it like that was magnificent. Again, I’m so proud of you for doing what you love. And looking good doing it!

 

Keep shredding!

-Asami

 

She only hesitated for a minute before clicking ‘send.’

 

-

 

The gas pedal resisted any further push. She released it only for a second to slam on the clutch and shift before shoving it to its full depth a half beat later. The roar of the engine filled the cabin and a wild laugh escaped from the depths of Asami’s helmet. 

 

She glanced sideways at the helmeted engineer in the passenger seat beside her. Certified just as she was for driving on the high speed track, he’d taken the new racing prototype for a few laps before she had. Except he’d come up drastically short of truly exercising the engine. Something Asami had no problem doing. She grinned at him and noticed his white knuckled grip on the door and the tremor of panic in his eyes.

 

Another shift and cackle later they attacked the turn. With the track banked so steeply, Asami could ram the car into it at 135mph and barely turn the wheel as the vehicle climbed the nearly vertical wall of the track and flew around the curve. Oh hell yes.

 

She’d have to take the next turn a little faster; they’d only ascended as far as the middle lane. So much more speed to be had. Launching them into the straightaway, she milked the engine for unadulterated acceleration until she slowed a hair for the next turn, which she took comfortably at 160mph. Had to slightly turn the wheel this time but they made it halfway into the uppermost lane.

 

“Whoo!” She hooted as she brought them round to the straight and began the deceleration. They rounded the previous bend at a glacial pace of 70mph before she’d slowed to the appropriate 35mph to direct the car into the off ramp.

 

“Well Miss Sato.” His voice sounded dry. He shook out his hands. “Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t drive.”

 

“No one ever has.” Asami grinned at him through her helmet.

 

With adrenaline coursing through her veins, she stepped out of the vehicle and removed her helmet. She gave detailed feedback and a few minute suggestions to the group of engineers waiting eagerly and nervously by the track, finishing with an encouraging, “One of the best rides I’ve experienced. And I’m one of you. Well done team. I’m going to want one of these.”

 

At that they all beamed. Asami couldn’t help but smile back, feeling like there was no other place she should be than standing by a hotrod with a helmet tucked against her hip, supporting a team—her team—of speed demon engineers. 

 

“Let’s get a picture?” She offered with a smile.

 

The group surged around her, all smiles, and together, Asami and this small piece of her Future Industries family posed in front of their newest, most exhilarating creation yet.

 

Someone sent the photo to her cell phone and she admired it fondly before deciding this one was worth the hassle of waiting for the PR team’s approval. She attached it quickly to an email and sent it to the VP of Marketing, requesting it be reviewed through the proper channels.

 

Within minutes she had a response from the VP himself. ‘Hell yes. Vehicle isn’t secret anymore; this is the best kind of PR we could ask for. Share away.’

 

She pocketed her phone and said her goodbyes to the crew of engineers that had already gathered around the open hood of the car, pointing to the different components they might be able to tweak to coax a little more juice out of the already punchy engine. They huddled around the vehicle eagerly peeking over each other and nodding enthusiastically as they jotted down notes, despite the blazing heat pouring from the block. Asami recognized that passion, understood it deeply. She felt the fire in herself, fueled and enhanced by the people around her and their joint achievement. 

 

The sense of belonging blossomed in her chest and she left the track feeling more energized than she had in weeks. The rest of the day flew by effortlessly, complete with a personal best at the gym and a neatly stacked and finished pile of drawings. 

 

After a hot shower and an indulgent moisturizing routine, she sighed into freshly changed sheets and clicked open her phone as she relaxed against her pillow. With a little time, she’d be able to figure out how to properly make an Instagram post. 

 

As out of practice as she was, it took the better part of five minutes to craft her desired message and upload the image. She stared at it warmly for a few seconds—besides everything else that made her smile about the picture, she also fancied she looked quite good with that helmet perched on her hip and the aerodynamic lines of the race car framing her and the team from behind.

 

A slew of ‘likes’ followed the post, not two minutes after she’d finished. Geez. Talk about being in the spotlight. It was probably for the best that Marketing thwarted her desire to post on this account (or at all) or she’d have to deal with this a lot more often. Her thoughts wandered as she scrolled through her feed, not giving much import to what she saw until one image froze her. 

 

Her breath left her in a rush as she saw Korra with her arm draped fondly around another woman. And with her face practically buried against the woman’s cheek as she kissed it. The woman, for her part, looked none too enthused by the sign of affection, nearly expressionless except for a slight narrowing of her eyes and the Korra-shaped squish in her face. 

 

She was dark-haired, wore the slightest hint of eye makeup and seemed utterly joyless. Even her hair, stick straight with bangs cutting efficiently across her forehead, had no personality. She eyed Korra warily out of the corner of her eyes and Asami was at a loss about whether the deadpan was farce or true indifference. What Korra saw in her was anybody’s guess.

 

Except Korra looked blissful. Loving. Happy.

 

Asami’s heart tumbled down from the lofty place her day had left it as she read the caption. ‘You know you love me, Eska. Don’t pretend. Thanks for coming all the way out here just to go to a rugby match with me <3’

 

Her emotions contorted into a dreadful press of sorrow and affection. Korra had taken the time to get out to see a rugby match. The thought made Asami want to smile and laugh and reach out to her to hear all about it. But shit. Korra hadn’t gone alone. That little heart Korra typed broke hers yet again.

 

Right. Six months was plenty of time to get over someone. And sufficient time to find someone else. To move on.

 

And, at this acutely piercing moment, Asami realized just how little of that she’d done. The way her breath quickened, the way her room darkened, the way her throat tightened, and the way her body lit up with all the bittersweet memories of Korra that evidently lay just beneath the surface of her skin… it made everything painfully clear. Asami still had a long way to go. And Korra was more than halfway there.

 


image credit: just-halfwaythere on tumblr

**

 

Korra grunted blithely into her father’s bruising hug. “It was so good to spend this time with you Korra!”

 

“Tonraq, don’t crush my daughter before I get to say goodbye!” Senna slapped his shoulder. Korra stepped out of her father’s arms and wrapped her mother in a warm embrace. Somehow, despite having at least an inch or two on her mother’s height, Senna’s hug still engulfed her. She sighed into her mom and smiled.

 

“I’m so glad you guys came to visit.”

 

“And miss the opportunity to see New Zealand?!” Her dad boomed. “I’ve always wanted to come here and you gave us the perfect excuse! Plus it was good to get your cousins out into the world.” He obscured his mouth and whispered sideways to Korra, “I think they almost liked it.”

 

Korra grinned at him then turned to the twins who stood impassively waiting for Tonraq and Senna to finish their ‘excessively emotional’ goodbyes.

 

“Eska, I’m so glad you came with me and my dad to that rugby match!” Korra didn’t wait for a response, ignored the panicked grimace Eska returned as Korra stepped closer, and wrapped her in a large hug. “I had so much fun!”

 

Through Korra’s hair, Eska’s monotone voice sounded muffled. “I found the gratuitous violence quite bracing, cousin. And a thorough analysis of the gameplay strategy revealed that the sport requires significant skill. I would be interested to meet this friend of yours and inquire further about her experience.”

 

Chuckling, Korra pulled back and turned to the other twin. “Desna, I’m going to miss my shredding buddy! Next time we ski maybe some cliff-jumping, eh?” 

 

“I believe I might enjoy such activities. Perhaps I will seek you out soon, cousin.”

 

She loosened her grip on Desna so she could wrap one arm around Eska and pull them both into a chilly group hug, in which Korra was the only source of warmth. Overflowing with love for her family, she had plenty to go around.

 

“Love you guys so much!”

 

“The affection is mutual.” Eska said dryly.

 

Korra teared up as she watched her parents and cousins shuffle through airport security and waved at their backs as they navigated into the terminal. It had been an amazing two weeks with her family and she felt nothing but excitement that she’d be spending the next few winters much closer to them than before. Growing up so close to the Canadian National Training center had been advantageous for her aspirations as a young skier. Now that she’d set her eyes on that prize again, the proximity it afforded to her family only solidified her resolve.

 

Chapter Text

Every year. Asami smiled softly to herself as she opened her email to find a single unread message, from Korra. She could not remember if or when she’d made known the exact date of her father’s passing, but for the last two years Korra had, without fail, made a point of reaching out on the anniversary. The third was no exception.

 

Over the years the pace of life had only grown more grueling, with projects and acquisitions and press conferences and board meetings and interviews and innumerable tasks consuming her every day and night. And with that unrelenting pace, Asami had grown into her position as CEO more fully than she could have dreamed. Comfortably at the helm of her family’s company, Asami had nurtured a vision for Future Industries and, more importantly, had set the wheels in motion to attain it. Despite her unquestionably settling into place, however, Asami’s poise and success never prevented her from feeling the least bit fluttery when she received a note from Korra.

 

Hey Asami,

 

How was your day? I’m thinking of you today.

 

We’re ramping up for the ski season out here and I’m itching for some big storm days to get a few free ski days in. Any plans to ski this year? Where?

 

<3

Korra

 

Short and sweet, same as every year. Even if they hadn’t communicated in weeks, Korra always rekindled the correspondence in November. And it never failed to tug at Asami’s heart, even so far removed from the intensity of their winter together. Korra’s comfort still soothed her after all this time, and knowing Korra’s mind was on her still set her heart to racing. Almost as if they’d had more than just one night.  

 

She responded as soon as she’d read it, lying in bed and very ready to be done with today. 

 

Korra,

 

All things considered, it was a rather regular day. Thanks for checking in. It always makes me smile to hear from you. Today especially. 

 

I haven’t yet decided where to ski this year, definitely out west somewhere. Where will you be for the season?

 

-Asami

 

She never could quite figure out how to sign her emails to Korra. Asami tossed her phone aside and turned off her bedside lamp before giving a second thought to the implication that she might give chase if Korra wound up somewhere attainable this year.

 

-

 

Three days later, amongst the chaos of Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma Yin’s house (where Mako and Bolin insisted Asami spend the holiday every year), Bolin’s voice rang out over the hullabaloo. “Asaaamiii!”

 

“Yeah, Bo?” She called back to him from the kitchen. Though generally soft spoken, Asami could generate volume when the situation arose. And to be heard over the whirring, bubbling, and sizzling of the kitchen combined with the shrieking, giggling, and chattering of the cousins, volume was required.

 

He bounded into the kitchen, dramatically out of breath for someone who’d just come from the next room. “You won’t believe what I found!”

 

“What is it?” Asami asked, turning back to the sauce she’d been instructed not to burn. 

 

“Isn’t this Korra?!” Bolin shoved his phone in front of her. “Like your Korra?”

 

Asami almost yelped, startled by both the device thrust an inch from her nose and the mention of a name she hadn’t heard spoken out loud in… who knows how long. There was never a ‘my’ Korra.

 

“Uhm, let me see.” She retracted her chin to focus. On the screen she saw none other than Korra—yes, Asami’s Korra—and her unmistakable smile partially obscured by a proffered microphone. “Stir this.” She handed Bolin the spoon and snatched the phone from his hand before he had time to answer. Standing in one corner of the kitchen and straining to hear, she pressed play.

 

‘Congratulations, Korra! You must be feeling pretty psyched right now. This is your third World Cup title this year after winning X Games Gold.’

 

The microphone wobbled a bit as Korra’s mouth pulled upward on one side into that lopsided grin that Asami so fondly remembered.

 

‘I think psyched is a pretty good word for it.’ The smile split her wind-reddened cheeks.

 

Korra’s voice, its wavery raspiness textured by the laugh that bubbled just beneath, stole Asami’s breath in a rush. She hadn’t heard that voice, not once over the phone or in a video or anything, in nearly three years. The resonant familiarity of the sound and the sharpness of its effect had Asami rewinding the video to watch the seconds she’d missed while she recovered. 

 

‘You’ve made quite the comeback over the last few years after your fall at the Sochi Olympics. We thought you’d retired for good.’ Korra nodded curtly, clearly still somewhat uneasy with the topic. Considering this was a reporter asking, Asami could relate. ‘Tell me, what inspired you to go for it again?’

 

‘I had some great people encourage me to do what I love, whatever that may be. And after I was back on my feet I just couldn’t stay away.’

 

God, she looked happy. So at home and so incredibly, undeniably happy. Asami tried to pretend she didn’t want to count herself as one of the ‘great people’ Korra referred to. Regardless, Asami found herself smiling foolishly along with the uncontainable, accomplished skier brightening the screen with her laugh.

 

‘Well, we’re definitely glad you’re back and gracing the sport with those incredible moves!’ The reporter rambled on in freestyle jargon Asami had no hope of following before asking, ‘Will we be seeing anything like that at the Winter Olympic Games next year?’

 

The WHAT? Asami’s eyes shot wide open.

 

Korra returned a beguiling grin. The kind that suggested she held a delicious secret she might be convinced to give away. And who could resist the ensuing temptation to coax it out of her? Asami was ill-equipped to handle her own roiling response to that smile, still so embarrassingly strong after so much time. 

 

‘Guess you’ll just have to wait and find out.’ Korra answered with a quirk of her brow that knocked the air out of Asami’s quiet laugh.

 

‘Well there you have it ladies and gentlemen. Back from obscurity, Korra is one of the lead contenders to watch during the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City next February.’

 

Asami blinked at the now-still images of Korra and the reporter on screen, half expecting the video to continue and answer all the questions raging in her brain. 

 

“Isn’t that cool?” Bolin called over his shoulder as he dutifully stirred Asami’s sauce.

 

“Very…” she muttered.

 

“Have you guys kept in touch at all? Did you know she was gonna compete?” He asked excitedly as Asami returned his cell phone and resumed her position at the stove.

 

“We’ve emailed here and there.” Asami answered honestly. “But I was unaware she was back competing. Or that she was aiming for the Games this year.”

 

“Well, I think it’s awesome! What a comeback!” He looked back down at his phone and rewound to footage of Korra’s winning World Cup Run. Asami glanced sideways over his shoulder to watch. “This is so awesome. I can’t believe I’ve met an Olympian.” Bolin breathed in wonder as Korra cut an impossible figure in the air. Asami could only nod her agreement and pretend to focus on the sauce.

 

A minute later she smelled a hint of excessive sweetness as the sugars began to burn in the pan and she rushed it off the heat and stirred vigorously to cool it off. 

 

“Keep an eye on that sauce sweetie.” Grandma Yin poked her head into the kitchen an instant later. 

 

“Yes ma’am. Under control.” Asami turned to her and smiled. Then, to Bolin, “Your grandmother has an impressive nose. It just barely went over...”

 

He shrugged and grinned. “Makes the best food though.” 

 

“Mhmm, that’s for sure.” She smiled back. Spending time with this family had quickly filled a special place in her heart after she’d returned from Whistler.

 

“You done with the cranberry sauce?” Bolin peeked around her as she slowed her stirring. “I gotta get in here and get started on the potatoes. This year we’ve got... whipped potatoes with peas and onions, mashed potatoes with lumps, and tater tots.” He counted the recipes off on thick fingers.

 

Asami arched her eyebrows. “Wow, Bo. Crowd pleaser, much?”

 

“Eh, what can I say? I’m such a sucker when the little ones ask me for stuff.”

 

“You want a hand?” The CEO offered. Her cooking shift was coming to an end, but with her mind freshly catapulted into a swirl of thoughts about Korra, the last thing she wanted was to emerge into a well-meaning crowd of family who would surely barrage her with eager questions about her personal life.

 

“Sure!” Bolin agreed. My hero. “Grab a peeler, we’ve got lots to get through.”

 

Asami zoned out in the repetitive motions of the kitchen and let her mind wander. Korra seemed so alive in that video. Understandably, of course, after a championship win. But it resonated deeper than the adrenaline of the moment, beyond victory. It seemed more... permanent. Something Asami was sure hadn’t faded after the thrill of winning wound down. Something within Korra had shifted. And had fallen perfectly into place, it appeared.

 

That purposeful look in her eyes, vibrant but calm, certain, in turn awoke something in Asami. She couldn’t put her finger on what suddenly felt so different or why, but her mind would not stop returning to the same thought.

 

I need to see her.

 

**

 

Korra,

 

I’m fairly certain I found the answer to my own question after Bolin showed me your interview from last year’s World Cup. Congratulations on the wins!

 

But most of all, it’s so incredible that you’re headed back to the Olympics this year! I still remember when we talked about it and you couldn’t say for sure if it’s what you wanted. And now look at you; a favorite for the podium. It made me really happy to see you so full of life doing what you love. You looked perfectly in your element. 

 

I know it’s probably been too long for me to say this, but I do truly mean it: I’m really proud of you for carrying yourself this far. You deserve every celebration on the way. I hope the experience at the Games exceeds your every expectation. (And of course, I hope that you kick ass.)

 

Love,

Asami

 

P.S. Will you be in Salt Lake City for the entire season or just for February?

 

The involuntary smile burned Korra’s cheeks and she forgot to doubt herself for not answering Asami’s email before receiving a second one. She’d been turning over her possible answers for a few days after Asami had so innocently inquired about Korra’s plans for the winter season.

 

Objectively, Korra had nothing to hide. But she’d neglected to tell Asami she’d qualified for the Winter Olympics nearly a year prior. She’d also neglected to mention her decision, two years old now, to return to the sport. Between her arduous training schedule, a whirlwind of travel, and an inexplicable hesitancy to get Asami’s hopes up, Korra had left all but the peripheral details out of their communications for much too long.

 

And, though they both knew she owed Asami no such transparency, Korra felt wretched about not sharing with her. Despite the time and the distance, she regarded Asami and their fragile thread of a relationship with utmost care and deference. They could hardly be described as close any longer but for some reason Korra had never let go of the notion that Asami remained one of the people who knew her best. And what a slap in the face to someone who cares so much to not share with them the most significant news of the last three years.

 

The mulling and self-doubt had left Asami’s kind email unanswered for days, despite the sweetness that had left Korra itching to respond unabashedly and whole-heartedly. ‘It always makes me smile to hear from you.’

 

Me too, ‘Sami.

 

But now, Asami had figured it out for herself. And, in classic Asami fashion, she’d been perfectly supportive and understanding and seemed entirely too overjoyed for Korra to even care that she’d been out of the loop. 

 

Korra grinned at the signature. ‘Love, Asami.’ It felt more genuine than anything she’d received in the last year.

 

Asami’s pride and affection did more to boost Korra’s mood than any World Cup victories had, either.

 

With a broad smile, Korra let her heart guide her answer.

 

Asami,

 

Thank you!! I’m so excited for this year! I feel so much more solid this time around. Maybe age and experience have their benefits, huh?

 

I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner… I think maybe I wanted to make sure I didn’t disappoint or something… Honestly, I don’t know. It sounds ridiculous now, knowing how supportive you are. And always have been. Thanks for still being in my corner. Your pride means the world to me. It definitely hasn’t been too long for you to say that.

 

To answer your question: I won’t be in Salt Lake all winter; just from mid-January through the end of the Games. Until then I’ll be training near Calgary (where I’ve spent most of the last few winters) with a brief stint in Toronto for Jinora’s white coat ceremony (she’s in med school!). 

 

Have you decided where to ski yet?

 

<3

Korra

 

The response she received the next day sent her into a panicky excitement she didn’t know how to contain.

 

Korra - I know the odds are low, but when will you be in Toronto? I’ll be attending a media event for our new SUV at the Future Industries plant just outside the city in mid-December.

 

If the dates coincide and you have time, I’d love to see you.

 

You and Jinora both seem to be blazing paths of success! It’s so good to hear she’s doing well; med school is a tremendous achievement. I bet the whole family is thrilled :-)

 

Let me know about Toronto!

 

**

 

Quite honestly, Asami couldn’t have conceived that an opportunity would present itself so readily. She’d half expected to end up selecting the location of the Winter Olympic Games as her ski destination for the year and fighting the hordes of people on the hills to maybe get a chance at meeting up with Korra. Not crazy at all, Sato.

 

But this?

 

‘I’ll be there Dec 15-18th. You?’

 

This was almost too serendipitous to be true.

 

Me too! Seems like the odds are in our favor :-) If you want to catch up, my evenings are scott free. 

 

Simple as that. 

 

Korra’s affirmative response came within the hour. 

 

Chapter Text

Nervous didn’t sound immense enough to describe Korra’s shaky apprehension as she rounded the corner onto the block where she and Asami agreed to meet. Jinora’s ceremony had gone marvelously but as soon as she’d gotten a moment alone with the beaming student, all Jinora wanted to talk about was tonight’s encounter.

 

It didn’t help one bit with the pit dwelling in Korra’s stomach.

 

Whenever Korra tried to convince herself she had nothing to be nervous about, her brain laughed in her face and spat out a lengthy and painfully accurate list of reasons to send her jitters into overdrive. Korra put every drop of her self-control into not reviewing that list over in her head as she strode down the block at an unsteady pace, at once hesitant to face Asami and eager to get the uneasy first moments over with.

 

She was too busy staring at her shoes to notice the woman at the edge of the sidewalk. They collided before she had enough time to register the back of one red high heel sliding into her view of the pavement.

 

“Gosh, I’m so sorry!” Korra whirled towards the source of contact and reached forward out of instinct to catch the person she’d most likely nearly knocked over. 

 

Korra grasped the elbows of the stranger’s dark peacoat firmly before looking up to apologize and make sure she was stable. When she raised her chin, everything in her vision faded but the dazzling green eyes twinkling down at her.

 

Asami smiled sweetly and with her free hand squeezed Korra’s forearm as a silent but warm reassurance. Her other hand held a phone against her ear. They stared at each other for an extended moment and Asami mouthed a soundless ‘hi’ through her flawless smile. She released Korra’s arm and the localized rush of cold that replaced her hand reminded Korra to let go as well. Raising a finger, Asami signaled she’d be just another minute and Korra nodded softly.

 

Enough time to piece herself together. While just sort of… staring at Asami. Great.

 

“Claro, Javier. No te preocupes, haz lo mejor que puedas y lo revisamos mañana.”

 

Asami’s voice sent the world flooding back into Korra’s senses. With it came wave after wave of striking details that, once faded into memory, now emblazoned themselves in Korra’s mind as she drank in the sight of this woman and everything it awakened within her.

 

Her hair appeared as luscious as ever, pulled up in a loose bun that left tendrils hovering down around her face. Just above the high collar of her coat, Korra recognized the familiar outline of Asami’s jaw where, with a blush, she remembered her once burning desire to plant as many kisses as humanly possible in a single night. She watched, as subtly as she could, the swell of Asami’s lips curving over each word before releasing it elegantly into the air. She noticed freshly applied lipstick—the same shade she knew so achingly well—and smiled softly to herself. For me?

 

The lilt and melody of Asami’s voice hadn’t changed a bit and Asami’s laugh, so graciously given to whomever held her attention on the phone, still stirred emotions in the depths of Korra’s belly. Her eyes found Korra’s again and the affectionate smile overflowing from the gorgeous green gripped and constricted Korra’s chest.

 

She’d been looking at the woman for less than sixty seconds and that was all it took. The familiarity and joy in Asami’s eyes, coupled with the unfair combination of red lips framing Spanish with unembellished ease, blew on the cool ashes leftover from years of tempered attraction and whooshed Korra’s feelings back to warm, blazing life.

 

“Hiya stranger.” Asami clicked her cell phone off and slid it smoothly into her pocket. She kept her hands buried in her coat and cocked her hip to one side while regarding Korra fondly from a few feet away.

 

The phrase tingled the back of Korra’s mind and the answer came before she recognized it. “Hiya back.” Korra said with a lopsided smile. 

 

There was nothing for it; no medicine for the ache in her heart other than to be close to Asami again. Korra stepped forward without a thought left in her body and pulled her into a fierce hug.

 

As she tightened her arms around her friend’s back and luxuriated in the effortless way their fronts molded together, Korra noted with delight that Asami still smelled the same. And boy if that cocktail of shampoo and perfume and laundry detergent and something uniquely Asami didn’t conjure up a dozen other remembrances, fuzzy images flitting about in Korra’s head, strung together by one common and galvanizing feeling. 

 

Korra sighed into the embrace, breathing into the wonderful familiarity of Asami’s shoulder against her forehead. “Hi.” She said quietly, unable to stem the wild grin that split her cheeks as Asami sank into her and squeezed her back.

 

“Hi Korra.” The sound of her name, breathed with such delicate disbelieving reverence, set her heart to skipping as the summation of Asami’s absence for the last three years crashed into Korra’s chest all at once. 

 

I don’t think I realized how much I missed you.

 

Asami pulled back, keeping her hands on Korra’s shoulders, and looked down at her with a watery smile. “It’s so good to see you.”

 

Korra didn’t trust her voice with her throat suddenly so tight. She nodded emphatically as her own eyes filled with moisture. When did I forget how beautiful you are? 

 

And she had forgotten, hadn’t she? Maybe a little on purpose, because otherwise how could she have made it through the last three years remembering the depth she’d left behind in those piercing eyes?

 

The CEO’s expression shifted into a tiny smirk and a playful spark flashed in her eyes. “Apparently you still don’t think I can take a hit,” she teased.

 

Korra blinked, blindsided by the quip, and took a moment to recover with a sloppy sideways grin. “In my defense I had no idea it was you I crashed into.” Asami raised a questioning eyebrow and Korra reflected it right back. “Maybe if I’d known it was you I would’ve just let you fall over.”

 

Asami laughed brightly and the sound pulled Korra’s cheeks up into a broad smile. 

 

“You know, normally I’d take offense to such a gross underestimation but considering the shoes I’m wearing, I’ll admit I might’ve teetered a bit off balance for a second.” She winked at Korra, who was off balance herself, trying to remember how to stop smiling long enough to make word shapes with her mouth. “And speaking of shoes, I’m dying to get off my feet.” Asami snaked her arm through one of Korra’s. “Let’s head inside?”

 

Still a little dazed by the sheer physicality of Asami here with her, in real life, joking and smiling and touching her like they'd never ceased to be the best of friends, all Korra could do was bob her head in ascent.

 

“So what is this place?” Asami asked as they stepped arm in arm through the front door of the converted old house. “‘The Hair of the Dog?’”

 

“One of my favorite brunch places in the city.” Korra found her voice.

 

“They serve brunch this late?” 

 

Korra chuckled as she indicated their party size to the host. “No, but they serve great drinks all day—hence the name—and have an evening food menu if you’re feeling hungry.”

 

“I love it.” Asami smiled and Korra tried, tried and failed, not to swoon at the sound of that word on those lips. How did all of this rush back so swiftly?

 

Korra watched through the corner of her eyes as Asami peeled off her coat beside their table. It dawned on her then that she’d never seen Asami in work clothes before. A tragedy to say the least. Because wow.

 

Unsure if she’d actually expected Asami to show up in something she knew (ski clothes, sweatpants, or skinny jeans?), Korra had to suppress her double take at the sight of Asami in high-waisted grey slacks cinched over a sharp white button-down whose collar was folded over the fatigue-loosened tie draped around her neck. The red of her lipstick matched her pointed heels, which Korra just now took the time to notice extended the length of her legs from forever to infinite.

 

Korra cleared her throat as she sat down, feeling rather underdressed in her dark jeans and sleeveless top. She desperately did not want to be the person that started a potentially awkward conversation with a shallow ‘you look great’ but in the only words that came to her reeling, emotion-throttled mind were variations on the theme.

 

“Aren’t you cold?” Asami rescued her from across the table.

 

“Me? Not really.” Korra shrugged and glanced down at her bare arms. “I spend all my time in the cold, this isn’t bad at all. And I run kind of warm anyway.”

 

She caught a flash of recognition, a repressed ‘I know,’ in Asami’s eyes before the engineer said, “Well, you look great.” Huh, there you have it.

 

Except from Asami it didn’t sound shallow at all. On the contrary, she somehow managed to imbue the statement with the weight of three years worth of affection and pride and happiness for Korra’s achievements and her genuine smile left Korra’s cheeks burning red. She thanked the merciful gods that her darker complexion disguised her blush.

 

“Thanks. You’re looking pretty snazzy yourself.”

 

Now that sounded hollow. And absurdly unfair because ‘snazzy’ was the understatement of the goddamn century. Asami looked radiant. Stunning. Impeccable. Elegant. Gorgeous. Breathtaking. Not. Snazzy. Korra tightened her clammy grip on the menu to keep from slapping her own forehead in mortification as Asami chuckled softly at the lame, understated compliment.

 

“What do you recommend here?” She asked, graciously changing the subject to relieve Korra of her embarrassment yet again. 

 

As Korra perused the menu she realized woefully that her primary recommendations had little to do with beverages and everything to do with food. Considering they’d planned specifically for drinks—to keep things light and noncommittal—Korra felt a little ashamed at her inability to formulate a decent answer. Asami smirked at her.

 

“You’re thinking about food aren’t you?”

 

“Uh… yes?” Korra admitted with a guilty smile. Caught.

 

The engineer shook her head and laughed, a sweet knowing laugh that made Korra feel like she was in on the private joke rather than the butt of it. Korra grinned back and shrugged. “It’s hard not to think about food when I’m here. Their butter chicken grilled cheese is a thing of beauty.” Asami’s eyebrows rose with piqued interest. “And honestly I don’t think I’ve had more than one drink in months.”

 

“Oh my god, that’s right. You’re probably on a really restrictive regimen…” Korra nodded at Asami’s non-question. “Think you can even stomach something like a, what’d you call it, a butter chicken grilled cheese?”

 

“Please.” Korra answered sarcastically. “Never underestimate me and my stomach.” She patted her abdomen fondly and Asami giggled.

 

“Well, I can drink for the both of us if you can’t.” Asami teased. “In contrast to your superbly healthy lifestyle I have turned into a minimum one whiskey per night kind of girl.” Korra raised her eyebrows and Asami lifted a nonchalant shoulder. “It takes the edge off the job… always helps to have a beverage in hand when someone calls you at eleven at night from China.”

 

Korra laughed but she could absolutely picture Asami lounging in her apartment in sweats, swirling a cocktail in one hand while playing the part of big boss CEO with her phone in the other. Quite the image.

 

“I can have a drink with you, not to worry. If I’m feeling crazy I’ll have two!” Korra flashed her eyebrows and Asami laughed again. What a wonderful sound. 

 

But, as much as she loved the idea of keeping Asami giggling all night, Korra was too curious about Asami to hold back her questions. “So how has it been, CEO-ing?”

 

Asami scoffed, but Korra saw the spark of life in her eyes at the mention of her job. She couldn’t help her grin as Asami began to answer. “It’s very demanding, but extremely rewarding. Every day I learn a dozen new things and am surrounded by people with so much passion and experience… I feel so incredibly lucky to have this position. And to have been able to hang on to it despite the unusual way I was appointed is… well it feels like a miracle, honestly.”

 

“That’s crazy Asami.” Korra interjected. “It’s no miracle. You’re the passionate one. And smart. And dedicated. The people around you wouldn’t stick around if they didn’t believe in you and what you bring to the table.” She shook her head and smiled. “I’m pretty sure it has everything to do with you and not some stroke of chance.”

 

Bashful, blushing Asami hadn’t yet appeared this evening, but as she blossomed red in front of Korra, she found herself wanting to reach for Asami’s hand. Korra held fast, afraid of tainting the ease of their conversation with the heaviness of that unspoken history.

 

“That’s very nice of you to say but—” Asami began to deflect but Korra cut her off.

 

“I mean it. Your people love you; I’m sure of it. And it shows. Future Industries stock has soared over the last several months and your podium sweep at Le Mans this summer launched your racing department into worldwide recognition. Not an insignificant achievement for an enterprise whose focus had been on producing cars for the masses for the last two generations. And all of it is highly attributable to the brilliant young CEO leading the company brazenly into the future.” 

 

Asami stared back at Korra with wide eyes, absolutely bewildered. She took a sip of her water before clearing her throat and raising a quizzical eyebrow. “You know, I didn’t peg you for the type that reads Business Insider.”

 

It was Korra’s turn to blush. “I’ve… read a bit here and there. I usually, um, pick them up when I see anything about Future Industries…” Asami’s eyes softened into a look that melted Korra’s insides and she scrambled to cover the more sentimental side of her admission. “I mean… you don’t post anything on social media or anything and we didn’t really email that much so it was kinda one of the ways I could learn a bit about your life and…” Asami’s eyes kept boring into her and Korra trailed off as she realized she was failing miserably at keeping this encounter surface-level and friendly. They hadn’t even ordered their drinks yet. 

 

She’d glared down at her menu, fumbling for a way to dig herself out of her hole when Asami’s hand folded gently over her fingers. Korra froze. She hadn’t prepared herself for the electricity that still bolted through her when Asami’s skin touched hers. “I’m sorry we didn’t talk more, Korra. I—”

 

“It’s not your fault!” Korra practically squawked as she looked up. “Believe me, I know better than anyone that communication is a two-way street. I was just curious and I didn’t want to annoy you with too many questions.”

 

“You couldn’t annoy me.”

 

“Eh, I’m sure I could if I tried.” Korra waggled her eyebrows, hoping to lighten the mood. She brightened when Asami chuckled and tried not to react when Asami released her hand.

 

“Well, you can ask me whatever you like.” The CEO said earnestly as she sat back and closed the menu on the table in front of her. “I promise I won’t be annoyed.”

 

Korra laughed softly and nodded. The waiter came by to take their drink order, granting Korra a few more seconds to come up with a question specific enough to ask.

 

“So,” Asami turned back to her once they were left alone, crossing one leg over the other with alluring nonchalance. The professional attire that Asami wore so elegantly made Korra’s mouth a little dry. “What do you want to know?”

 

“Um…” Everything. Why did this all of a sudden feel like an interview? Korra swallowed hard. “Is it what you wanted?” Not exactly specific, Korra.

 

Asami’s eyebrows drew together and she puffed out a breath before tilting her head. “What do you mean?”

 

“I remember something you told me once… about how work could be kind of like family in its own way. And that that’s what you wanted; a sense of family, permanence.” She exhaled and glanced down at the table. “I remember you used that word, permanence… I guess I’m asking if you’re getting that, what you said you wanted.”

 

When she looked back up, Asami had all but slumped against the back of her seat. Korra hadn’t realized how upright Asami sat until she saw her sink back. Now, with her brows lifted together and a shocked vulnerability in her eyes, she appeared altogether shaken by Korra’s question. 

 

Korra began to panic as Asami took a few moments to process. Was that too forward? It was really the main thing she wanted to know… are you happy? She’d thought she’d avoided the bulk of the awkwardness by not phrasing it so bluntly but... evidently her social intuition was thrown wildly off kilter by this woman.

 

“Sorry…” Korra added after a few seconds. “Maybe asking if you have everything you ever wanted in life is not really a ‘first drink’ kind of question…” She tried to laugh it off, to give Asami a way out if she needed it.

 

“No, it’s…” Asami shook her head with a tiny smile. “It’s not that. I just… I’m surprised you remember that conversation. It was so long ago...”

 

“Oh.” Here Korra was, blushing again. She fidgeted with the edge of the table. “Yeah I, uh… that sort of stuck with me I guess.”

 

Asami held her gaze and for an extended moment Korra felt absolutely bare as Asami searched her for… something. She released the breath she’d been holding when Asami’s eyes darted away a short eternity later.

 

“It does give me a lot of that.” Asami said finally, quietly. Korra had almost forgotten the question and had to disguise her temporary confusion before she remembered and Asami continued. “There is an undeniable sense of family at Future Industries; it was fostered by my father and grandfather from the company’s founding. And I do feel like I’m a part of that now. It took time, though. At first I felt like an outsider as CEO, thrown in and expected to fill shoes that weren’t meant for me…” Asami sighed. “But I think I’ve gotten past the worst of the growing pains now. It’s still tough. Every day brings a new challenge I can hardly conceive of. But there’s a trust now, a sense that we’re all on the same side and share a vision, and that makes all the difference.”

 

Korra beamed. “That’s great ‘Sami.”

 

“Yeah…” Asami smiled back. “I feel a lot more settled.” Her eyes flicked up and Korra followed her gaze to find the waiter bringing them their beverages.

 

After the first sip she asked more, too keen on feeling close to Asami again to hold herself back. “What’s the hardest part of the job?”

 

Asami scoffed. “It’s all hard… but if I’m being honest... I’d say I have the most difficult time resisting the temptation to divert all our funds into the racing department.” She smirked as if teasing but from the glimmer in her eyes Korra knew she was absolutely serious. 

 

With a hearty laugh Korra added, “So I probably don’t have to ask what your favorite part of the job is, then?”

 

Asami’s wide smile was answer enough but she was eager to elaborate. “You’re right about that… any time I can get out to a race or, better yet, out to a test drive, I’m there.” Her eyes twinkled. “I’ve gotten to drive most of our race vehicles on the high speed track and it’s… spectacular. And getting to be in the garage with the team at Le Mans was surreal. Craziest part of all is that they wanted me there! I stayed the whole time; we took sleeping shifts in fold-up chairs. The entire team was so eager to show me everything they’d done. I felt like a kid in a candy store.”

 

“That sounds incredible.” 

 

“I don’t think I’ve had any other experience like that in my life. And then after we won, the party… oh my god.”

 

Korra burst out laughing. “Lots of champagne sprayed everywhere?”

 

“Like you would not believe. I left completely soaked.”

 

Asami soaked in champagne? Hmm... Korra’s expression must have betrayed her intrigue because Asami raised a curious eyebrow before releasing a throaty laugh and shaking her head. “Being covered in champagne is not as glamorous as it sounds. Mostly sticky, really.” 

 

Korra guffawed but still couldn’t stifle the image of Asami in an absurdly elegant dress, drenched from head to toe with droplets of champagne beading and trickling over her supple skin. Keep your head out of the gutter, Korra.

 

“Must’ve been one hell of a party.” She managed with a grin while trying to force away the mental temptation she’d conjured. 

 

“I’ll say. But I’m sure you’ve had your fair share after the World Cups.”

 

“I wish!” Korra waved a hand, “We don’t have as much money in snow sports as motor sports... Maybe someday, but for now us ski bums can’t afford to spray Moët everywhere instead of drinking it.”

 

Asami snorted and covered her mouth as she laughed. “But we do celebrate!” Korra added with a little puff of her chest. “It’s just a little less ‘glamorous,’ I’m sure. And always somewhat chill when you’re still competing the next day or the next month.”

 

“Right, that makes sense…” Asami drew her eyebrows together. “Do the competitions string together that closely?”

 

“Sometimes.” Korra bobbed her head side to side. “But even if they don’t, no one wants the hangovers. They can throw off training pretty bad if you go too hard.”

 

Asami nodded slowly. “And what’s training like?”

 

Korra leaned forward eagerly. “We’re in the gym every day. Lifting, lots of cardio, working on air awareness and gymnastics. It’s honestly kinda boring outside of ski season. But in the winter…” Korra sighed dreamily, “nothing comes close to the experience of actually being out in the snow. That feeling of flying is… unbeatable.” She said with wonder.

 

Korra refocused her eyes after drifting in her thoughts for a few seconds. She found Asami regarding her fondly from across the table, head tilted to one side and a knowing private smile tugging at her lips. “What?” Korra asked, naked under that gaze as heat colored her cheeks.

 

“You seem really happy.” Asami answered softly.

 

“I am.” Korra replied with a smile. 

 

Except now, here, saying that to Asami… it felt incomplete. Something in her chest tightened, startling Korra with the unexpected certainty that her happiness existed despite something. Or, instead of something. And, for Asami, she felt it important to qualify her statement. Critical, even. “Except…” Asami’s eyebrows rose at the interjection. “I think the reason I’m happy doing this right now is because I know it won’t be forever, you know?”

 

Asami furrowed her brow. Alright, no, she didn’t ‘know.’ “What I mean is… this second time around I don’t feel like the Games are my whole life. The first time I was so wound up; competing was my world. But the accident took all of it away in an instant. Recovering and building a different life for myself forced me to see that there’s more to the world than skiing and winning.” Asami nodded slowly as she listened. “And that’s really freeing now that I’m training again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still working hard. Some days I feel like all I do is train. But knowing that there’s life to look forward to after all of it is really… peaceful? I dunno.” Korra shrugged. “I think it’s letting me enjoy things more, knowing that I made a choice to compete and that I’m free to choose to stop whenever I want to be done with it.”

 

“So you’re saying you’re able to go all in now because you know it’s not mutually exclusive with anything else you may want for yourself?”

 

“Exactly!” Korra grinned. “I couldn’t have said it better. I always did feel like you understood me better than I did myself.”

 

One corner of Asami’s mouth curved upward into an adorably flattered smile before she followed up with another question. “And do you know what else you want for yourself? After you’re done competing?”

 

Before she could stop it, Korra’s brain had the audacity to suggest that maybe all she wanted was more nights like this, sitting with Asami and talking, sharing, getting to know one another again. Don’t be ridiculous. She’s not waiting around for you, Korra.

 

Despite the fancifulness of the thought, Korra couldn’t shake the warmth that spread through her chest at the idea of spending time with Asami. Time when she didn’t have to hide or suppress what she wanted, when they weren’t rushed or doomed or lost before even finding each other. ‘I wish we had more time.’ 

 

The memory of their goodbye crashed into her, dislodging a slew of other flashbacks that began to rain down on her mind like dusty trinkets tumbling from the shelf where they'd lived undisturbed for far too long… charged kisses, lingering touches, and a tangible, physical, ache to be so close that no one could take Asami from her again. Korra had to breathe slowly against the twisting in her chest and the answer her heart offered emphatically. I think I want you...

 

Too late, she caught herself staring into the mesmerizing green of Asami’s eyes as her thoughts wandered. How long had she spent just looking at her? Korra cleared her throat and shoved away the fantasy. She won’t wait around for you. 

 

“I, uh, haven’t given much thought to what I want after competing. But I probably would like to stay close to skiing somehow. Maybe teaching, coaching… not sure. The industry is huge; I’m sure I could find something.” Korra shrugged and took a large gulp of her drink, deeply shaken by the clarity with which she discovered, or rediscovered, what she wanted.

 

**

 

“And how’s Naga?” Asami swiftly changed the course of the conversation after Korra’s fumbled response to her question.

 

Maybe it hadn’t been fair to pose it so bluntly. Do you know what you want for yourself? What the hell had she expected anyway? For Korra to say something theatrical like ‘I want you’ and fall into her arms? Asami had to keep from scoffing at herself out loud. 

 

Except she couldn’t forget how she’d also had to keep her breathing under control as Korra all but searched for her own answer in Asami’s eyes.

 

She’d given Korra time to find her words, but when they finally came they hadn’t matched the intensity and longing of the blue that stared back at her. Not even close. Asami had watched in real time as Korra’s gaze wavered between soft and pained, ardent and resigned, until she’d shaken it all away and given an answer woefully unrepresentative of everything that had passed across her expression.

 

It was disappointing, to say the least, but what more could be expected? Even if there was still something there—and that was fanciful folly, Asami figured—she and Korra both knew that dredging it up with only one evening to spare was an exercise in futility that would only result in a distressing repeat of their goodbye. No, it probably wasn’t worth it.

 

“—you wanna see pictures?!” Korra offered with a broad, beguiling smile, already reaching for her phone.

 

Asami had barely listened, but she nodded blithely, assuming—correctly—that she was about to be graced with a reel of derpy, happy photos of Korra and her dog.

 

“Are those your parents?” She asked after a picture of Korra under the thick arm of a tall, broad man. Korra had her arm around a woman of whom she could have been a clone, except for the lopsided smile that matched that of the man towering over them.

 

“Yeah!” Korra said from beside her. She had moved to sit next to Asami in the booth so they could see the photos side by side. Their knees were pressed together as Korra scrolled and Asami could almost smell Korra’s earthy shampoo from her position, gently hovering over Korra’s shoulder. “They came to visit me in New Zealand when I was out there teaching.”

 

“You look a lot like your mother.” Asami observed. 

 

“My dad says that all the time.” Korra answered softly. Asami made the mistake of turning her head to watch Korra’s reaction and found herself totally floored by the small smile playing over her friend’s lips while a subtle pink crept into her cheeks. Being this close made it supremely difficult to resist the urge to brush away the lock of hair that partially obscured Korra’s face. Or to stop herself from leaning forward and pressing her lips against Korra’s temple. 

 

God, when had all of this come rushing back? It couldn’t be the alcohol; Asami had hardly made it through her first beverage. Maybe it was the way Korra stared up at her when they’d first crashed into each other outside, bewildered but so clearly taken even at first sight. Or the things that were so very Korra, tender charming gestures like reading up on Future Industries or—geez—remembering the exact words Asami had used to describe her hopes and dreams years ago. Or maybe just her eyes and how the depth they held had not changed in the slightest. Whatever combination of details, it unleashed in Asami a formidable desire to lose herself in Korra again, to push herself closer and give in completely to the aching longing she’d stifled over the last three years. 

 

Asami clenched an empty fist under the table and turned away, resuming her attention on the screen and not the fountain of temptation warm against her side. “You look like your mother, but your smile is all your father’s,” she added fondly.

 

Korra subtly melted into her, closing what gap had been left between their thighs, hips, and shoulders until she was practically resting her head on Asami’s arm. Asami’s breath caught and she held it, only exhaling once she’d managed to still the fluttering in her chest. “You must be psychic,” Korra chuckled, “my mom says that about me and my dad, too.”

 

“It doesn’t take special powers to see them in you, Korra.” Asami nudged her gently with her shoulder. 

 

“Ha, maybe not but it doesn’t feel that obvious to me.” She nudged Asami back. “I wish you could meet them. I think they’d like you.”

 

“What makes you say that?”

 

“I dunno… I guess because I like you.” Korra sat up straighter and flashed Asami a silly grin that tore her to shreds.

 

“Well I don’t know if that’s the way it works,” Asami joked, mostly to keep her own composure, “but I’ll admit I tend to be popular with parents.”

 

Korra snorted. “Why am I not surprised?”

 

“The only parents that never liked me were my high school best friend’s…”

 

“What?! How is that possible?!” Korra’s half-feigned indignation pulled a laugh from Asami’s belly.

 

“I think they suspected I had a crush on her and thought I was trying to steal her away from her golden-boy boyfriend, who they adored.”

 

“Ha, and were you?” Korra bumped her shoulder again, this time none-too-gently.

 

“I mean…” At Asami’s suggestive tone Korra burst out laughing. “I only kissed her one time...” She admitted with exaggerated innocence and Korra threw her head back with a cackle.

 

“Wait…” Korra shook her head as she regained her breath, “You’re not talking about Opal, are you?”

 

“No no,” Asami chuckled, “definitely not Opal. She and I got close after Ella was forbidden from seeing me again.”

 

“Oh, ouch.” Korra grimaced and slid a few inches away, much to Asami’s dismay. “That must’ve been tough.

 

“It was…” She remembered the days spent in her room, waiting on Ella to text her back or respond to her after weeks of no word. It felt like small potatoes compared to leaving Whistler. “But I think it turned out okay in the end… Ella came out in college, just a few months after I did.”

 

“Oh wow, did you guys ever get back in touch?”

 

“Briefly, but nothing besides a few messages to catch up. I think by the time it felt comfortable to talk again we had both solidly moved on. High school feelings are… strange that way.” Asami shrugged dismissively.

 

“Aw man, the hopeless romantic in me was hoping for a sappy story about long lost love rekindled!” Wouldn’t that be nice.

 

“You? A hopeless romantic?” Asami threw her eyebrows up to her hairline.

 

“Okay maybe not totally. But at least a little.” Just as Asami was about to ask Korra to elaborate on her ‘a little,’ Korra stood up. “Be right back, gotta go to the restroom.”

 

Asami watched as she walked away, nonplussed by the heady swirl of her emotions and Korra’s proximity. She tried not to stare too overtly at the slight sway of Korra’s hips and the visible flex of her thighs and backside through her jeans as she walked. Gym every day? It showed. She’d spent the better part of their first few minutes together diverting her eyes from the discernibly augmented musculature in Korra’s arms. And the new patterned tattoo that wrapped around and accentuated her biceps. 

 

They ordered another round when Korra came back and, despite the engaging conversation, once the alcohol began to take effect Asami had a harder and harder time keeping her eyes in check. She found herself glossing them over every part of Korra she could, much more often than would be explainable if Korra decided to challenge her on it.

 

And, of course, she did.

 

“See something you like?” Korra raised a cheeky eyebrow and smirked as Asami raked her eyes, again, over that new tattoo while she took another sip.

 

Asami practically choked on her drink. By some miracle she managed to contain her discomfited snort to a subtle tremble of her glass and a clearing of her throat. 

 

“I, uh,” she cleared her throat again, still stinging from the drink she’d inhaled by accident, “I’ve been wondering about that tattoo.”

 

“Oh!” Korra’s suggestive look slipped away and was replaced with genuine excitement at Asami’s notice. Asami sputtered again when Korra lifted her arm and turned it over a few times to give her a better look at the ink and, of course, at the muscles that tensed and released beneath the dark skin as Korra moved. “You like it?” She sounded so pure.

 

And yet was so irritatingly attractive.

 

“I do.” Asami smiled and, god help her, reached forward to trace her fingers lightly over the tessellated triangles contrasting against bronze skin. In pure gratuitous indulgence, she allowed herself to gently grip Korra’s bicep and rotate it so she could see the pattern continue onto the inside of her arm. Where the skin was soft and sensitive. And where Asami let her fingers roam deliberately over the ink for several seconds. The goosebumps she left in her wake alerted her to a potentially untoward situation and she withdrew quickly. “When did you have it done?” She asked through the dryness in her mouth.

 

Korra swallowed hard and Asami tried to ignore the slight huskiness in her voice as she answered. “When I was in New Zealand.”

 

“Did you choose that design for a particular meaning?” … like your other ones? She figured it best not to include the last bit, now with a vividly fresh reminder of the more intimate location that was home to another of Korra’s tattoos. Tipsy Asami needed to cool it.

 

“Actually, yeah... Me and a bunch of the other instructors went to get some together. We all wanted Maori-style designs. The designs were incredibly intricate, and unique to each person based on their lives and the people and things most important to them. When it was my turn, I just kept coming back to this pattern.” She looked down at her arm with a sideways smile. “It’s the pattern from the quilt my mom made for me when I was a baby. Really simple, triangles and circles, but I loved that blanket growing up. It’s still in my room today. Anyway, when I told the artist about it, she was convinced it was the right design for me even if it wasn’t in the classic style. She colored the shapes with some traditional infill, but the overall design always reminds me of my family and my mom and dad.”

 

Asami softened as Korra spoke and ached to reach forward again, this time to tuck her fingers between Korra’s and stay there, safe and connected. She only allowed herself the luxury of words. “That’s beautiful, Korra. I-I really like that.” For some reason, the melancholy tug of family memories perhaps, Asami’s voice came out in a waver and Korra’s eyes shot up to find hers, immediately on alert.

 

Korra met her gaze with warmth, concern, and sympathy. Amazingly, she seemed to just know Asami’s sorrow, without a word. An instant after Asami had suppressed her urge to reach for Korra, Korra’s skin found hers. Softly, she threaded two of their fingers together and squeezed gentle reassurance and pure electricity into her hand. There weren’t really words to say as their eyes held each other for an extended moment.

 

Korra didn’t let go when she asked, “Have you decided on a gingerbread house design for Christmas?”

 

Poor Asami. She’d all but dissolved into a puddle in Korra’s hand. Did the woman have to understand and remember her so wholly? Or be so attentive and considerate and genuinely invested in her happiness? No. She certainly didn’t have to catch every little feeling that passed through Asami’s chest and reflect it back tenfold. And yet Korra did it all fluently, almost thoughtless in her tenderness. That agonizing sweetness hadn’t changed at all in the last three years and neither had its liquefying effect on the CEO.

 

She had to stop herself from taking Korra’s hand in both of hers and lacing their fingers together fully. Can’t. Shouldn’t. “I have. It’s…” Asami felt her cheeks grow hotter; she hadn’t quite expected to share this little detail with anyone this year. “I’m going to make a gingerbread Olympic torch.”

 

Korra’s eyebrows ascended to the top of her forehead before the surprised smile in her eyes made it to her lips. Asami felt the need to explain herself. “The design for this year’s torch is really intricate and I thought it would be a fun challenge to replicate while making it stand upright and play with some different materials for the flames…” 

 

“You’re such a nerd, ‘Sami.” Korra shook her head with a bubbly smile and squeezed Asami’s fingers. She wasn’t letting go and Asami didn’t mind in the least.

 

“Born and raised.” Asami answered. Just like she had the first time Korra teased her that way. Korra caught it too and her eyes flashed something unreadable—nostalgia maybe?—before she stared down at their cautiously joined hands and sighed heavily.

 

Asami gulped and braced herself. She sensed in Korra’s demeanor, in the way she sucked in her next breath and the subtle twitch of her fingers, that something tough was coming next.

 

“I really missed you.” Korra breathed the words with a deep wrinkle in her brow, as if the immensity of the sentiment demanded such a hushed, troubled confession. With her eyes glued to their hands, she traced over Asami’s fingers with her thumb once, twice, before falling still without looking up.

 

Robbed of voice, blinking against the pang in her chest and the stinging in her eyes, Asami stumbled on her tongue and her feelings and just sat, silent and exposed as the earnestness in Korra’s voice played itself over and over in her head. All she could bring herself to do was tighten her grip on Korra’s hand to communicate weakly that yes, she too had missed Korra. So incredibly much.

 

It wasn’t enough. Didn’t scratch the surface of the cavernous emptiness that Korra had left behind. An emptiness Asami had excelled at ignoring and suppressing, until Korra did what she always did and shattered Asami’s glass walls of self-preservation with simple, unfettered honesty.

 

“I’ve missed you too, Korra.” Asami rasped out. Still not enough. “Very much.” 

 

Korra nodded imperceptibly but didn’t look away from their hands. Asami was struck with the sudden need to see her eyes, to try to read them and maybe make Korra see how much she meant what she said. 

 

Asami had always been a better communicator through touch. She slid her other hand closer and, extending her fingers, brushed them over Korra’s fingertips. She followed the warmth of her skin down to her open palm, where she traced the wrinkles reverently, holding Korra tighter when she jolted at the delicate contact. Look at me, Korra.

 

Their eyes met and Asami made a concerted effort to stop hiding, at least for a moment. She timidly let her anguish and her longing show as she stared intently into the wondrous blue of Korra’s eyes and said quietly, “I missed you every day.”

 

She watched as Korra’s eyes widened with hope and recognition and sorrow, then snap tightly shut before she said. “I don’t want this to happen again.”

 

The words landed on Asami like a bucket of frigid water, chilling her to the bone. Of course, of course. She tried to shake her head free of Korra’s disorienting pull to consider their situation rationally. Why would Korra want to reignite intimacy that had only caused them both so much hurt? And how idiotic was Asami to think there was still something between them after so much time? 

 

She shook her head again, irritated with herself. Overwhelmed by her own fanciful delusions, Asami had hugely overstepped and over assumed. In a flustered panic, she made to withdraw, to shut herself away and shove the emotion she’d allowed out back into the lockbox it had come from. Her hands jerked in Korra’s as she tried to pull away, but Korra held her fast, refusing to let go.

 

“No, Asami, wait...” Korra found her eyes and begged her to stay a second longer, to listen. “I’m sorry I said… that’s not what I meant.” She reached her remaining free fingers forward to find Asami’s and sighed shakily when Asami didn’t resist the touch. “W-what I was trying to say is… I don't want so much time to go by without… seeing you again.”

 

Oh.

 

Asami felt the press of Korra’s fingers between her own thaw the ice that had formed in her veins. “I want… I…” Korra fumbled on her words and looked down at their hands again, now properly intertwined, and a pained smile fluttered across her lips. Asami held her breath. “Can we…” Yes. Whatever you want, it’s yours. “...can we just… see each other again soon?”

 

The warmth and shyness of the request melted Asami from head to toe. “I-I’d like that very much.” She didn’t bumble her response as badly as she’d expected considering the tightness in her chest and throat.

 

At her words, she was granted the immense pleasure of watching the tension slough off Korra’s shoulders as the skier released a long breath of relief and her eyes and lips together formed a soft, hopeful smile. 

 

There were many questions to ask still. When? Where? To what end? But Asami couldn’t bring herself to kill the dopey grin Korra was giving her. Nor could she think straight with the intensity of those blue eyes piercing right through her heart.

 

Instead she smiled back and tightened her grip on Korra’s hand, letting herself enjoy, for the first time in years, the sparks that arced between their fingertips.

 

Chapter Text

Was this a date? 

 

Maybe.

 

Then again maybe not, considering the certain preclusion of anything else happening tonight. Korra chose not to care as she was absorbed by the otherworldly magic of Asami chatting amiably with the chef in Spanish.

 

Asami had reserved a table for herself at this restaurant as soon as she’d booked her trip to Toronto. She’d explained to Korra the night before, while they still held hands and Korra’s heart thundered, that she missed Spanish food terribly. Whenever she ventured into a new city, Asami selected at least one Spanish restaurant for a meal. ‘Not exactly a connoisseur,’ she’d clarified sheepishly as Korra smiled foolishly after accepting the invitation to join her for dinner, ‘it's more of a nostalgia thing.’

 

And apparently as soon as the chef saw the reservation for ‘Sato,’ he made a point of sending them a few tapas on the house and came out to say hello as soon as they’d finished eating. Evidently, he was a fan.

 

And who could blame him? Asami dripped elegance and charm as she (Korra assumed) complimented the paella they’d devoured with absolute delight. Korra watched dreamily as Asami captivated her and the defenseless man both with mellifluous smiles and impeccable Spanish. The chef excused himself reluctantly, lingering a little as he shook Asami’s hand, and flashed them a dazed smile before he walked away. Korra could relate.

 

Asami looked ravishing in her black dress. Though conservatively cut, a wide white stripe on either side of the dress accentuated Asami’s curves enough to keep Korra’s eyes thoroughly engaged. Korra had upped her game tonight to make up for the difference she’d felt yesterday. She’d chosen more form-fitting dark jeans and a blousy halter top that tied around the back of her neck. It also left her arms bare which, considering how she’d noticed Asami’s eyes wandering, turned out to be a very apt choice.

 

Tonight she limited herself to a single glass of wine. The second drink the night before had likely been the catalyst for the confession that led to tonight’s bonus dinner. But it had also left Korra with a dull headache she’d only shaken off a few hours earlier. So today was water, water, water, and some wine.

 

Asami had ordered a full bottle anyway, since her preferred selection was unavailable by the glass. Now, said bottle sat empty on the white tablecloth and, as they shared a small crema catalana for dessert, Korra smiled at the pervasive flush on Asami’s cheeks and her easy laughter as her inhibitions fell away.

 

“You lived in Toronto for a bit, right Korra?” Asami asked after a bite.

 

“Hm?” Korra blinked at the question, a little distracted by the way Asami’s lips dimpled around the spoon. “Oh, mhm, yeah I did. A few summers.”

 

“What’s your favorite thing about the city?”

 

“Just one?” Korra grinned.

 

“Start with one.” Asami’s playful smile was a sight Korra could never tire of.

 

“Um… I love how walkable it is. You can wander around and find yourself in tons of different neighborhoods without even planning for it.”

 

“Mm, I can imagine.” The engineer responded and took another slow bite of dessert. Korra noted the lipstick left on the spoon and was pretty sure she felt jealous of the utensil. “If someone had just one night in the city, what would you recommend that they do?”

 

“Just one?” Korra chuckled out the same question.

 

“Just one.” Asami said resolutely.

 

“Hm…” As she thought, Korra brought a hand to her chin and noticed how Asami’s eyes widened slightly and darted downward to her arm. The not-at-all-subtle appreciation sent a thrill coursing through her and she quickly forgot what she was supposed to be figuring out.

 

“No suggestions at all?” The nudge jostled her back to the conversation.

 

“Oh, uh, it’s hard to choose just one thing… but say, hypothetically, that you were the person with just one night in the city,” she winked at Asami who smiled shyly at being so blatantly read, “I’d recommend heading to the top of the CN Tower.”

 

“Huh. Isn’t that supposed to be super touristy?” 

 

“During the day, yeah. People want to see the lake and there are dozens of tours. But you can also get nighttime tickets. The view of the city all lit up is beautiful. And while there’s not a tour, there’s still a few bits of history up at the top that talk about the construction of the tower, which I’m sure a nerd like you would love.”

 

Asami stared at her for a moment, green eyes glistening as she smiled softly. “You wanna go?”

 

“Tonight?” Korra was genuinely surprised.

 

“When else?” Cheeky Asami tilted her head to one side. “You sold it pretty well.”

 

“Um…” Korra could not think of a single reason to refuse besides ‘I’d be too tempted to kiss you.’ And she couldn’t very well say that out loud. So apparently she had no choice but to suppress her urges and go along with it. Disappointing Asami wasn’t an option she deigned to consider. “If we can get tickets, I’m in.” 

 

Asami rewarded her with a bright smile that momentarily erased her hesitation, along with most of her other thoughts. As Korra polished off their dessert, Asami took a few minutes on her phone to check for availability. “Got us tickets.” She announced. “Reservation is for an hour from now.”

 

“Oh awesome! That was fast. How much do I owe you?”

 

Asami shook her head and put her hand up. “I maintain a very strict policy of not accepting payment from my friends for things I make them do.”

 

“That’s ridiculous, I—” Korra tried to argue but Asami cut her off with a sharp shake of her chin and an ‘uh-uh’ that had Korra obeying before she even realized what she was doing. 

 

With that same irrefutable certainty, Asami covered the bill for dinner, claiming she’d compelled Korra to join her there as well. 

 

Okay this definitely feels like a date. Korra could not decide if it thrilled her or terrified her. Probably both.

 

They took advantage of the walkability Korra had described and strolled lazily down King Street, shoulder to shoulder against the cold. At some point during the short journey to the tower, Asami looped her arm through Korra’s and used the link to hold them together as they walked. Oh boy.

 

Korra had walked like this with Jinora and other friends to keep out the cold hundreds of times. She was sure Asami had done the same with Opal or whomever else. But, try as she might, she was unable to convince herself this was strictly friendly. Or, even if Asami did mean it sedately, Korra couldn’t stop her breath from hitching at the warmth that spread between them. 

 

Needless to say, she guided them along the longest route possible before they arrived at the tower a full twenty minutes early.

 

“Want to walk around the plaza a bit?” She suggested, keeping her arm (and, consequently, Asami’s) tight against her side. “We’re a little early.”

 

“Sure.” Asami said quietly. 

 

There wasn’t much to see around here at night, but Korra hit the big spots—the aquarium, the railroad park with its converted brewery, and a few isolated green areas. Asami pushed closer as the wind swept through with a chill. Korra was veritably burning up at the proximity but she wasn’t about to resist when Asami wrapped gloved fingers around her bicep, subtly squeezing as she tugged them closer with her elbow.

 

With her heart in her throat she walked them back to the entrance to the tower where, regrettably, they separated for Asami to redeem their tickets. She came back with two tickets in one hand and an unfolded brochure waving excitedly in the other.

 

“Did you know they poured the entire concrete tower in one go?!” The engineer asked, her voice thrumming. “It’s incredible!”

 

Korra laughed throatily and took the tickets from her so she could hold the brochure more comfortably. “I knew you’d like it.” Korra grinned, feeling rather proud of her choice. Asami glanced up at her with warm appreciation before turning back to the paper. “I don’t remember if it’s on at night, but at the top there’s a video that shows a timelapse of the concrete pour and how they designed it and everything.” 

 

At that Asami’s eyes went wide with childlike enthusiasm and she practically shoved the brochure in her pocket along with her gloves before grabbing Korra’s arm and dragging her towards the line for the elevator. “If we’re ahead in line maybe we can get a good spot to watch!” 

 

The sheer enjoyment Asami managed to control during the elevator ride burst out of her in a small happy squeal when they arrived at the top and a new round of the short documentary was beginning on the screens that greeted them. Korra was beside herself watching the engineer’s  uncontainable enthusiasm. The smile that hadn’t receded since Asami showed her that brochure burned at her cheeks and didn’t let up for a second as Asami oo’d over the video. The engineer was so consumed with interest about the construction history, she didn’t spare a glance out the windows to take in the view.

 

“That’s such a cool story.” Asami concluded as the video reset itself to begin again. “An unprecedented feat of engineering.” She said in wonder and continued to stare at the screen, perfectly content to rewatch the exact same information she’d just seen.

 

“Come on,” Korra urged gently, “there’s more to see beyond the entrance.” She motioned to the rest of the lookout and Asami tore her eyes away from the television to follow.

 

They’d traveled up an elevator on the lake side. At this time of the evening, the view of Lake Ontario consisted of no more than a few specks of light amid a yawning expanse of black. Korra made sure to watch Asami’s reaction as they rounded the elevators to face the city itself.

 

Asami stopped in her tracks and gasped softly, raising her fingers to her lips. Korra pulled up beside her with a grin. “Wow, Korra.” Asami breathed. “You weren’t kidding.” She turned to her with a touched smile. “It’s breathtaking.”

 

“Good recommendation?” Korra teased and bumped Asami with her shoulder.

 

“Perfect.” She responded quietly as her eyes danced across the brightly lit skyline. Korra sighed, delighted to have given Asami something good. “Let’s get closer.” Asami said after a few seconds. Korra froze when a gentle finger grazed the back of her hand. Asami glanced sidelong at her then moved towards the windows.

 

Korra remembered to inhale a breathless moment later and propelled herself forward to stand beside Asami as she admired the view. They ambled along the floor-to-ceiling glass to catch the twinkling lights from every possible angle. Korra pointed out the handful of landmarks she recognized and, every so often, the backs of their hands brushed together as they moved. 

 

Korra could never tell if Asami let it happen on purpose, but it sent a jolt through her heart every time. Her consciousness narrowed to the nearly nonexistent space between their hands as her eyes glossed blindly over the stunning landscape. Once they’d walked an agonizing circle around the lookout, Korra, nerves tattered and chest tight, extended a finger in Asami’s direction when she took her next step.

 

She jumped when her knuckle met Asami’s in the tiny air gap and nearly fell apart when, without hesitation, Asami tucked her finger around Korra’s and held it there as she kept pace. Two steps later, they had their hands loosely entwined and Korra was wound so tight she thought she might burst. I really wish I could kiss you. She tried to keep her hand from twitching as she stopped herself time and time again from using it to pull Asami against her.

 

Eventually, on their second lap, Asami found a spot to pause and lean against the railing that separated them from the glass. “It’s so beautiful up here.” She said before turning to Korra with a wondrous smile in her eyes. 

 

Korra decided she liked the city lights reflected in green more than she ever had before. Involuntarily, her grip tightened around Asami’s fingers. With her throat raw she managed a verbal response instead of the fantastical act of passion she’d visualized a thousand times in the last second. “I’m glad you like it.”

 

Asami’s eyebrows drew up and pulled together. “How could I not?” She said softly. Her eyes overflowed with affection as they found Korra’s and she took a half step closer. The open edges of Asami’s coat brushed against Korra’s forearms as her chest worked doubletime to heave air in and out of her lungs. 

 

She had to close her eyes against the tightening in her stomach as Asami used her free hand to tuck a loose strand of hair behind Korra’s ear. Oh god... She didn’t have the will to prevent herself from leaning into the touch when Asami traced her knuckles tenderly over her cheek. 

 

Forcing her eyes open, she found a well of emotion before her. Pouring from the glittery green Korra saw so many things she’d never thought she’d see again. Intent. Longing. A hint of self-consciousness. And, most notably, love.

 

It gutted her. She couldn’t do it, couldn’t give herself over to everything she saw, everything she wanted. Not like this, not without knowing that it wasn’t going to be the last time. Leaving Asami behind had all but destroyed her once. She couldn’t do it again.

 

This was about to hurt. 

 

She reached up and wrapped her fingers around Asami’s hand, pressing her cheek against it one final time before pulling it away from her face. She met Asami’s gaze and watched wretchedly as the self-consciousness grew to overcome the other wonderful emotions that had swirled there moments before. 

 

“Asami…” she held both of Asami’s hands now, keeping her close and refusing to let go, “I can’t just…” no, that’s not right. It was a crime to use ‘just’ to describe how much she wanted Asami with every fiber of her being. “I really want…” you. So much. “... to see you again.”

 

‘Oh,’ Asami’s wounded expression seemed to say. Korra felt her withdraw, saw the sobering effect of her statement send a chill between them. It broke her heart and she nearly gave up. Nearly threw herself forward and kissed Asami with abandon to wipe the hurt right off her face.

 

“I-I really do too.” Asami whispered finally, brow wrinkled as she glanced down at the floor.

 

The outrageous relief that surged through Korra tipped her forward with a heavy exhale. Oh thank god. She let her head fall until her forehead landed on Asami’s shoulder. She smelled so unbelievably good.

 

Gently, she tugged Asami’s hands until they wrapped behind her back. Once in place around her waist, she released them and slid her own arms between Asami’s coat and her dress, stepping closer to eliminate the space between them and fold her into a tight embrace. Korra turned her head so her cheek lay against the engineer’s clavicle and sighed deeply when she’d settled into her arms. You feel so good. 

 

She felt Asami’s tension melt away against her front and squeezed tighter when Asami lowered her chin to rest on her head. I want this. For more than just one night. As her eyes fell closed to the comfort of Asami in all her senses, she hoped against hope that Asami understood. From the way she was being held, with warm open hands pressed firmly against her back, Korra had an inkling that maybe Asami did.

 

“Come to Salt Lake.” The words left Korra’s lips before she’d given them any real thought.

 

Asami grasped her shoulders and pushed her away, searching her eyes intently for confirmation she was serious. And the more Korra looked into that smooth jade green, the more serious she knew she was.

 

“Come to Salt Lake.” Korra repeated with conviction.

 

Asami blinked and wrinkled her brow and seemed to consider and Korra plowed forward, no thoughts but this one left in her brain. “Come to Salt Lake. If you want, I can get you tickets to some of the events.” Only to Korra’s own events technically but, details. “And you’ll be there and I can see you and we can…” she trailed off, not knowing where the idea was taking her.

 

“Wouldn’t it be distracting to have people there?”

 

“No! My family is going. They’ll be there the whole time.” Korra stepped forward and hugged Asami again, burying her face in her collar. “Please come. Even if it’s just for the end.”

 

Asami’s arms wrapped around her again, as naturally as if they’d held each other a thousand times before. She seemed to embrace Korra with her entire body; hands, forearms, and elbows all pressing tight and pulling her close, enveloping her completely.

 

“O-okay.” Asami nodded against Korra’s temple. 

 

“Really?” Hopefulness and disbelief both drove up the pitch of Korra’s voice.

 

“Yes.” She felt Asami’s lips press against the side of her head and Korra leaned harder into her embrace. “I’ll be there.”

 

Korra sighed, trying to release the tightness building in her chest. But the tension was borne of hope and potential, not despair, and it only grew as she considered the prospect of Asami being there once she finished competing. Once things were done, finished, she’d be able to devote her time, the time she’d wished for and the time Asami deserved, to the golden person she held in her arms. Maybe it wasn’t exactly picture perfect or the most fleshed out idea she’d ever had but it was the only thing that made any sense.

 

“Just tell me when and I’ll get you access to whatever events I can.” Korra muttered into Asami’s coat. 

 

“Um…” Asami hummed against the top of her head and Korra nuzzled a little further into her neck. She tried to avoid direct contact with skin because god knew how little willpower she had left. “Let me know if I’m overstepping but, how many people can you get tickets for?”

 

She grinned, feeling the logistical gears already turning in Asami’s mind. She really was going to make this happen. “It depends on the event… where I’m competing, I get to bring eight people. I’ve got four coming. Why?”

 

“This year’s ski trip was supposed to be an engagement present for Bolin and Opal and I don’t want to ditch them if I can help it.”

 

Korra pulled back to stare at Asami wide-eyed. Holding each other while they talked had been glorious, but this merited a fully visible expressive reaction. “Bolin and Opal are engaged?!” Korra squealed. She’d barely spent time with them, years ago, and yet felt indirectly connected. Maybe it was because they were such a critical part of Asami’s life. And Korra was beginning to understand how critical Asami was to her.

 

Asami nodded with a broad smile and Korra’s lopsided grin took over her face. “That’s AWESOME! I will absolutely get tickets for them. How many do you need, three?”

 

“Um. Four. The best man was invited too.”

 

Korra’s eyes narrowed. “Mako, I imagine?”

 

The bubbly laughter that tumbled from Asami’s lips made Korra instantly relax. Or maybe it was the sweet, casual way Asami brushed the hair back from her face again. She still kept a warm hand tight against Korra’s waist. “Yes, Mako. The four of us are… our own little family these days. He looks out for me the most.”

 

A protective, hot fire flared at the pit of Korra’s belly. Maybe mixed with a hefty dose of envy. She exhaled roughly. As long as he’s not with you.

 

Asami read her like a book and her eyes softened completely, except for a small flash of self-satisfaction Korra caught before Asami swept it away. “Mako and I are past our... history. He’s been a great friend.” Then she stared at Korra resolutely, pointedly. “A friend. Nothing more.” 

 

Her words rang with the conviction of a promise, plain and simple and honest. The thumb she swept tenderly across Korra’s cheekbone sealed the pledge and Korra almost closed the gap between their lips there and then.

 

Except she could no more afford the overpowering distraction of one night with Asami than she could bring herself to say goodbye to her again. No... waiting was best. Classically, Korra needed to go all in. For the Olympics and for Asami. They both merited everything she had to give and she’d do better, be better, if she took the important parts of her life one at a time. Another person, Korra might have let herself enjoy, but Asami was for worshipping, not temporary thrills.

 

“Okay.” Korra smiled softly. “Four tickets it is. When you get a better idea of when you’ll arrive, let me know and we can figure out the events.”

 

“How about you send me a schedule—I’m assuming you have one of those—and I’ll work around that?”

 

Sheesh. Asami was too much; too sweet, too willing, too considerate. They needed to leave before Korra’s self-control completely evaporated.

 

“Okay. That works too.” She lifted herself on her toes and placed a kiss on Asami’s cheek. Overwhelmed by her scent and the softness of her skin, Korra lingered for a teetering moment where she thought she might tighten her grip on Asami’s waist and maybe just go for it. Asami’s cheek scrunched against her lips with a smile and it was enough to pull Korra down to earth. She settled back on her heels, feeling a flush in her own face and the heat of Asami beneath her fingertips. Keep moving or you’ll lose your nerve.

 

She reluctantly peeled her fingers off Asami’s side. “Want to head down?”

 

“I wouldn’t mind staying a bit longer, enjoy the view a little more. Maybe one more lap around?”

 

Korra was having a hard time tearing herself away, too. She nodded and indulged her twitchy fingers by letting them weave between Asami’s. The zeal with which Asami held her back, displaying not a shred of doubt, made Korra’s head spin with thoughts of what could be, would be, perhaps. A silly smile split her face as they looped around the lookout one more time, sides flush and hands irrevocably linked, bathed in the light from the city below.

 

**

 

Two months was at once entirely too long to wait and insufficient time to prepare. A stressfully short eternity.

 

The promise that lay at the end terrified Asami. She and Korra had carved out a tiny opportunity for themselves. Maybe. Honestly, Asami had no data for what to expect in Salt Lake. Korra was there to compete, to excel, not to look after her. So she had to assume she, Opal, Bolin, and Mako would effectively be on their own until an event or the end of the Games.

 

Blind faith led Asami to book their stay over the slopestyle and halfpipe finals. She’d received Korra’s schedule and, after conferring with a squealing Bolin and Opal, decided they’d try to see both events. And Korra, in her unparalleled openness had simply texted her back ‘check your email.’ Sure enough, she’d found vouchers for three days of events attached to an email with instructions detailed enough to delight.

 

But after that… who knew? She’d left Toronto and their ridiculously charged date with a promise to see Korra in Salt Lake and a definite—though unspoken—expectation. Nothing more than that however; no notion of when or where or what even. Asami hated not knowing. She wanted to have a plan. Especially for something so potentially…  what? Important? Meaningful? Loud? (Hopefully.)

 

Either way, she couldn’t bear the thought of leaving it entirely to chance or Korra’s fancy. So she did what an engineer does best and identified the broadest, most drastic approach to cover her bases. She reserved their accommodations for a total of a month; two weeks before and two weeks after the end of Korra’s events. Just in case.

Chapter Text

Korra’s periodic texts had carried her this far. Once the plans were made and the accommodations, lift tickets, cars, and a dozen other details were painstakingly decided, booked, and quadruple-checked, Asami had nothing left to do but wait. 

 

She tried to pretend she wasn’t idly living her life on cruise control, but it was damn near impossible to think of anything but an upcoming trip to see the Winter Olympics. Of course, the source of her anxiety had much less to do with the ‘super epicness’ (as Bolin so eloquently put it) and a lot more to do with a certain skier that never left her mind.

 

The messages from Korra punctuated the two months as they passed, warmer and more inviting than their emails had ever been.

 

Mon, Dec 25th

Korra [09:35]

I’m expecting a picture of that gingerbread Olympic torch. Merry Christmas Asami!

 

Wed, Dec 27th

Korra [16:47]

Got a free ski day today and found some cliffs. Reminded me of our pow day in Whistler :-)

 

Mon, Jan 1st

Korra [00:02]

Happy New Year! Any champagne spraying going on tonight?

 

Sat, Jan 20th

Korra [09:35]

We are officially headed to Salt Lake to start our local ramp up. So pumped! Bonus: you and I will be in the same country again :-)

 

Those and many others bred smile after smile as Asami read them time and again. The one that ultimately undid her came after Korra had enthusiastically announced she’d qualified for the slopestyle finals.

 

Thurs, Feb 15th

Korra [09:35]

Can’t wait to see you tomorrow.

 

Asami and the fam had been in Park City for just under two weeks, enjoying the local food scene and the variety of ski resorts at their disposal. They had followed the Olympic events from afar, keeping to the televised coverage and avoiding the bustle surrounding the events as much as possible. Asami hadn’t dared encroach on Korra's preparation and concentration. But now, the day before she was set to compete in her first Olympic finals in eight years, Korra was thinking about seeing her. Asami almost fell off her chair in the restaurant.

 

**

 

Two runs. Two chances. Two roaring minutes to show the world who she was. Who she’d fought to become.

 

No, it wasn’t halfpipe. That redemption was reserved for tomorrow and, hopefully, the day after. But Korra was all here, singularly prepared and utterly focused on the park sprawling before her.

 

Being on this stage felt much the same as it had all those years ago. The majesty of it all humbled her just as her position on the leaderboard allowed her the luxury of a small, confident smile. Except, unlike before, the confidence came without the jittery arrogance of youth and inexperience. Today, it simply warmed her, sat low in her belly in perfect counterpoint to the gentle anticipation that quickened her breath as she slid to the start line.

 

She’d cut this course a thousand different ways over the last many weeks. She could ski it with her eyes closed, knew the texture to expect in the snow after the number of skiers before her, and could predict its friction after this amount of time in the sun. Whatever transpired between her skis, the snow, and the features today would be her best. Of that, she was certain.

 

Where it landed her, the world could decide.

 

With a sharp intake of breath, she pumped her poles into the snow and went. Let’s fly.

 

**

 

The event was breathtaking. Each maneuver seemed more surreal than the last, each skier flying higher and turning longer. Asami’s head spun with awe as skis skimmed rails and snow alike at breakneck speeds. Agape, she tried not to imagine how ugly any misstep could become. 

 

Asami held her breath as Korra’s name was announced. She’d seen her fly before, exclusively on screen. Considering how the television had severely understated the sheer magnificence of what these athletes could accomplish, Asami braced herself to be blown away, clutching Opal’s hand to help keep her feet on the ground. If Korra on screen could steal her breath… well. Her heart raced at the promise of witnessing Korra at 100%, in person, fulfilling the dream she had once lost.

 

No amount of preparation, however, could have prevented Asami from gasping at the raw power and control that poured from Korra as her skis alighted on the first features of the park. She glided over the rails effortlessly, perfectly balanced as she spun two daring 180s during the grind. She tore off the feature and dove into another, her eagerness almost palpable in the way her skis dipped to meet the dizzying slope as she finished an intrepid flip one agonizing half-second before the ice caught her. Watching her incredible grace and the measured tension that pervaded every second of Korra’s run, Asami could picture the tiny wrinkle in her brow and the wild grin that replaced it each time her skis departed from the snow.

 

With every subsequent move, Asami’s breathing grew shorter. Korra seemed to hover a noticeable cut above the rest in everything she did—the height she attained, the smoothness that suffused all of her movements, and the gut wrenching audacity of squeezing in so many flips and spins until it seemed she had no time left before landing. It hit Asami, as she watched Korra corkscrew through the air, that Korra could win this. That not only was she here and giving it her best, after all of her struggle, but that her best might sweep everyone away, handily. Asami most of all.

 

Korra’s final jump froze the entire world around her. Collectively, the crowd held its breath. Asami was glad she wasn’t the only one. Korra flew. She spiraled and grabbed and switched and Asami looked on in terror as she careened head first towards the snow. A mere instant before contact, Korra twisted and yanked her skis beneath her, landing clean just in time to thunder across the finish. A rooster tail of snow sprayed from her skis as she stopped, pumping a fist in the air and laughing madly with glee.

 

Bolin and Opal pawed at each other and cheered and screamed and waved as Korra popped off her skis and stared at the scoreboard, awaiting the judges’ determination while the announcers broke down her run. As the last skier in the line-up, hers would be the final number to determine the stack on the podium. And after a run like that, ‘podium’ was the only word on everyone’s minds. Asami clung to the rapidly dwindling air in her lungs, eyes darting furiously between Korra and the board. She’d give anything for Korra to medal, to conquer her sport as thoroughly as her indomitable spirit deserved. 

 

Finally, the scoreboard flickered. The judges announced her result. Asami, disbelieving, tried to read it off the screen through the moisture building in her eyes, but it was no use. The audience exploded to life around her, confirming what she thought she’d heard. She blinked and once the blur had spilled from her eyes, Asami saw Korra fall to her knees. Asami didn’t need to see Korra’s name at the top of the board to know she’d won. She watched, heart soaring as Korra laughed and cried and shook and wiped at her windswept cheeks.

 

She’d done it. Brazenly, beautifully, and confidently. With a winning smile on her lips. She’d taken back everything that had been stolen from her and surpassed it. Asami trembled with the weight of the understanding and felt the skier’s heart-stopping grin tear through her chest from yards away. 

 

While the fiancés hooted themselves hoarse, Mako applauded and watched Asami carefully to gauge her reaction. Asami could only clasp her hands and hold them over her mouth to stem the overpowering tide of emotion that threatened to erupt from her at the immensity of Korra’s victory. She deserves this so much.

 

She could barely speak during the ceremony as Korra’s teammates draped a Canadian flag over her shoulders. Tears welled again at Korra’s face-splitting smile when she stepped up not one, not two, but three times to the highest spot on the podium. Goosebumps covered her arms when the attendant slipped the medal over Korra’s neck and she recognized the twinge of deep, barely contained emotion rippling behind her misty smile.

 

No matter what happened tomorrow or the day after, Korra would have this forever. And she’d taken it for herself, by herself. She had so much to be proud of. 

 

Asami stayed quiet, unobtrusive. She almost didn’t want Korra to see her, didn’t want to intrude on this most sacred moment. It was Korra’s and Korra’s alone.

 

The very next minute proved her patently wrong. After dozens of pictures, trinkets, smiles, and waves, Korra scanned the crowd and Asami watched an unstoppable grin crack open her face when her eyes landed in the audience several rows away. She leapt off the podium and ran, medal bouncing and flag trailing behind her, until she practically knocked over the delicate fence that separated her from her parents’ outstretched arms.

 

Tears ran rivers down Asami’s cheeks as she watched Korra’s father, larger than life, engulf his daughter, the fence, and his wife in a backbreaking embrace and lift the lot of them off the ground. Korra’s crooked smile was reflected indisputably on his face and Asami caught a whisper of the ‘I love you’ he muttered into his daughter’s hair.

 

No, Asami realized, the victory did not belong to Korra alone. This triumph belonged to Korra and to her family and to Tenzin and Jinora and all the people who loved Korra and pulled her through the last eight years. Even Kuvira, probably. It dawned on Asami, a second before she saw Korra turn and search the crowd again, that maybe Korra considered her to be one of those people. 

 

Humbled, Asami felt she didn’t deserve the soft sweet smile Korra gave her when their eyes met across the snow. The world fell away as she watched, disbelieving, as Korra walked away from her parents and came towards her. Oh god.

 

The loud pounding of her heart combined with Opal and Bolin’s high pitched shrieks drowned out most of what happened next. Asami watched it all through a haze, Korra’s easy gait as she approached the fencing that separated them, her happy grin and warm congratulations for Bolin and Opal, and her glittering eyes as they landed on Asami again. She stepped forward until the plastic fencing no longer yielded and pulled Asami into a chaste but fierce hug and whispered something that might have been inconsequential if not for the waver in her voice. “Thank you so much for being here ‘Sami.”

 

Asami nodded, dazed and shaken, and didn’t let herself hang on to Korra the way her body wanted to. As she stepped back, Korra swiftly and softly wiped a tear from Asami’s cheek and smiled again, disarming as ever, before turning to see who had just yelled her name. Still floored, Asami watched Korra’s eyes widen as she yelled back “Danny!” towards the coach, the Team USA coach, that ran towards her. 

 

With a quick glance over her shoulder and a laden smile, she said a promising goodbye and ran off to meet her friend. Asami stood rooted in place and was only made aware of the world again when Opal wrapped her arms around her waist.

 

“Well that was adorable.” Her friend drawled. 

 

Mako stood behind Asami’s shoulder with his arms crossed. “So that’s Korra, huh?”

 

“Yes,” Asami said as the smile that had been building within her finally found its way to her lips. “That’s Korra.”

 

**

 

The only problem with qualifying to compete in both slopestyle and halfpipe—an achievement Korra never heard the end of from her teammates—was that once one was finished, she still had to compete the next day.

 

Her last Olympics, she hadn’t gotten a chance to make a showing in slopestyle. The accident at halfpipe finals had made sure of that. This time she’d seized the opportunity with all the zeal and relish of someone who’d lost it once before. And, exhilaratingly, she’d delivered exactly how she’d dreamed eight years ago. Slopestyle was her element, her home base. The variety, the surprises, the opportunity all within reach in a single course… there were infinite ways to dissect the slope and just play. And playful Korra was the most successful Korra. 

 

She reminded herself of this over and over as she said goodnight to the teammates that were headed out of Olympic Village to party away the end of their events. Slowly, focused, she walked to her room to rest up for the next day.

 

Halfpipe loomed over her, muddling her mind with apprehension and self-doubt. The event had weighed on her throughout her training and the burden only grew heavier as tomorrow drew near. She’d been ambivalent at first about choosing to tackle halfpipe once again. It was well within reason to stick to slopestyle and avoid the ponderous event altogether. 

 

But the way it haunted her, taunted her with the possibility of conquering it the way it had once defeated her… it was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. This was her chance at redemption. The same event that had taken her life away from her lay there for the taking tomorrow. Eight years ago, she’d begun her competition cocksure and overconfident. But tonight, nerves bunched tight, Korra wasn’t sure she’d be able to sleep at all.

 

She slid into bed early and checked her phone. After the medal ceremony today, her cell had blown up with messages of all sorts. Even Kuvira sent a curt ‘Congratulations’ that she’d promptly deleted lest she have to see that name in her message feed for more than a few seconds. The onslaught had slowed to a manageable pace towards the evening. Now, before bed, she had three messages only. An adorable goodnight video from her parents, reminding her to drink plenty of water, brush her teeth, and sleep well. Lots of exclamation points and hearts from Jinora, who was flying in tomorrow night with Tenzin to watch Korra compete. And a heart wrenchingly sweet sentiment from Asami.

 

Asami [8:32pm]

So proud of you. Can’t wait to see you tomorrow.

 

Swooning was still possible while laying down, right? Korra pressed the phone flat to her chest and sighed as her eyes fluttered closed. Her mind swam with images of Asami and her stunning eyes brimming with tears, exultant and proud and loving and so very real and so very there. The memory made Korra’s heart soar. No matter what happened tomorrow or the day after, Korra was certain she could find her own joy in the depth of that green and the expanse of that smile. She’d make sure of it.

 

The thought set her nerves at ease and she relaxed into her pillow, setting her phone aside. Sleep waited a few breaths away and devotion alone reminded Korra to not leave Asami hanging.

 

Korra [9:12pm]

I’m so glad you’re here. I’ll look for you tomorrow.

 

-

 

Her first run ended poorly. She only had two attempts to qualify for finals tomorrow and she’d trashed one with that fall. Whatever tension Asami’s message had eased the night before had regrouped and settled over Korra with an unrelenting tightness when she awoke.

 

Once the sounds of scraping ice subsided and Korra slid to a stop on her back in the middle of the halfpipe, she mentally checked herself for injury. A younger Korra might’ve used the momentum of skidding on her ass to get back on her feet and beat a hasty retreat from the run and the eyes of the crowd. Today, more out of fear and dread than anything else, she took the time she needed to ensure she was intact.

 

She sighed a shaky breath of relief as she pushed herself up off the ice. Nothing broken, nothing sprained, nothing twisted. She’d be left with a glorious bruise and likely the need for a new helmet, but she was no worse for the wear. 

 

The crowd cheered uproariously when she stood, louder than they had at the medal ceremony yesterday. With a cursory wave in their general direction, she slid out of the halfpipe. Countless hands patted her back and slapped her shoulders as she skied to the holding area to await her next run. Skiers and coaches from all over the world took time to show their support. They understood and, despite being competitors, they were all athletes first. The camaraderie did little to quell the terror building in her chest.

 

She kicked off her skis and trudged towards the warming tent. Daniel waited for her just outside. He could no more coach her during the competition than commit treason. Without a word he grasped both her shoulders and gave them a reassuring squeeze before nodding his faith in her and walking away. As she stepped into the tent, her coach stood just inside, clearly expecting her.

 

“What do you fear, Korra?” Katara said as she held out Korra’s water bottle.

 

“That.” Korra answered dejectedly with a jerk of her chin towards the slope and the disaster she’d made of her first run. She had no idea how she’d managed to stay intact during her fall.

 

“Well it looks like you have nothing to be afraid of anymore.” Coach smiled and extended a hand to take Korra’s helmet.

 

Korra blinked at her. “I-I guess not…”

 

“There’s a lot to discover when you can see past your fear.” Katara’s tendency to speak in abstractions had, at times, irritated Korra. Particularly as a younger, brasher skier. Except Korra always found, eventually, that the advice she’d been given was unequivocally right. Katara’s words had never led her astray, even when Korra took her time to internalize them. It was why she’d stuck with the older, less traditional coach throughout her entire career. Katara had mentored her through life itself and she could think of no one better to have by her side. 

 

This time it didn’t take long for the message to sink in. Now that Korra had bombed once, she had nothing more to be nervous about. She had survived, was still standing, still in control, and still fully intending on getting back out there. The halfpipe had taken nothing from her but her fear. Might as well leave it all out on the snow now. 

 

With Katara’s message ringing in her ears, ‘remember to fly , Korra,’ she sailed into her remaining run. And once she’d found her center again, reconnected with her unbridled love for this sport, she flew indeed. She flipped and spun and grabbed and launched her way up the leaderboard into a solid placement in finals tomorrow.

 

This thrill was familiar. Exhilarating and gripping and explosive. It leapt from her throat in a whoop as she completed her run and skied straight to the tent to wrap Katara in bear hug the likes of which would make her father proud. The elderly coach chuckled softly. “You have everything you need within you, Korra. Well done, dear.”

 

She gave Katara one last squeeze and agreed to meet her in the recovery area shortly. The rest of the evening would be spent at the mercy of the ski team staff to ensure her body felt good as new tomorrow. With only a few minutes to spare, she tore out of the tent to find her parents who felt the need to check her personally for any injuries she may have ignored.

 

Korra laughed aloud as they poked and prodded, assuring them that the team of trainers would care for her thoroughly as soon as she retreated from the slopes. She kissed and hugged them and held her trembling mother for a few extra seconds to affirm her strength. “I feel better than ever. I promise. I love you so much.” Korra said softly. “I’ll see you for dinner in a few hours?” 

 

Tonraq wrapped an arm around Senna’s shoulders and they nodded. Not even the Olympics would stand in the way of their tradition of a family dinner the night before every competition. She flashed them a smile and ran off. Asami.

 

“Korraaaa!” Bolin’s booming voice made it easy to spot the group. “Oh my GOD, that was incredible! You were… WOW.” He clutched at his own hair and shook his head in disbelief. “I was on the edge of my seat!”

 

“We don’t have seats, Bo.” A tall man with pointed eyebrows corrected from behind Asami. Mako. He stood entirely too close for Korra’s liking. 

 

Before she could think anything else, Asami’s haunted, worried eyes stole all of Korra’s attention. The engineer stepped closer and lowered her voice to a hair above a choked whisper. “Are you okay?”

 

Korra wanted to give her a confident smile, but she was melting too quickly to hold it for long. It came out rather mushy in the end. “Yeah, I’m alright.” She reached forward and gave Asami’s arm a reassuring squeeze. “Never better actually.”

 

What a wonder to watch Asami’s worry fade away and be replaced by a soft smile. And to know she’d been the source of all of it—the concern, the comfort, and the joy—was exhilarating all on its own. Korra grinned into the green eyes that held her rapt. 

 

“Believe it or not you two, there are other people in the world.” Opal’s face swam into Korra’s vision and Asami turned a delightful shade of pink. Korra snorted and shook the trance away, if only for a moment. “That was incredible, Korra. Bolin can’t quite put the words together, but I’m willing to bet he wants me to ask you for an autograph.”

 

A high pitched ‘Mhmm’ sounded from somewhere and Korra giggled. “How about tomorrow after the events?” She offered. “We’re not supposed to do that out in the event space.” 

 

“Promise?” Bolin asked tentatively.

 

“Haha I promise, Bolin.”

 

“Great! We’ll be right here!” He smiled a lovably goofy smile that Korra couldn’t help but mirror. “You’re gonna do great!”

 

“That’s the plan!” Korra smiled then turned to Asami again. Everything within her dissolved a little whenever they made eye contact and she had to force herself to keep Opal’s reminder in mind. “I gotta run, but I’ll see you tomorrow?”

 

The statement was technically intended for everyone in the group. But she’d instinctively reached for Asami’s hand as she said it and found that a full second later she was still staring intently into her eyes. She must have looked a fool, unable to tear herself away. But with the warmth holding her in place, it was impossible to care.

 

“We’ll be here.” Asami smiled and Korra’s heart burst to life within her. Good thing Asami still remembered everyone else, despite the gentle grip she kept around Korra’s hand. “See you tomorrow.”

 

Can’t wait. Korra tried to let her expression say the words that were certainly too affectionate for the crowd. With a nod and a grin she couldn’t keep off her face, she retreated to prepare herself for tomorrow.

 

-

 

Fly.

 

All the mantras Korra had ever repeated to herself fell away in favor of that one. Katara had reminded her again today.

 

Fly and be free.

 

Korra centered her mind and let go of the stakes and the danger and the fear and threw herself wholeheartedly into chasing that freedom.

 

With the air whipping around her and the snow spinning beneath her, all Korra felt was the gripping electricity coursing through her veins and the smile it thrust upon her face. In these few moments, all that existed was herself, her skis, and the snow. The three of them together could achieve anything.

 

Her first run was a work of art. It left her in third place before her second and final run. With two other skiers to follow, Korra had a tentative chance to remain on the podium. She could maintain, play it safe, and gamble on the other finalists not improving over their existing scores.

 

Or not.

 

The decision came as her skis left the snow for the first jump. Play it safe my ass. She put the final touches on her initial maneuver a half second before reaching for the snow. Each subsequent trick demanded more—more speed, more twists, more tucks, more tension, and more flight. Korra leaned into every move, every minuscule twitch of her body, with everything she had left to give. 

 

She let go completely at the final stretch. There was only one trick she hadn’t tried yet. It had landed her a place in halfpipe finals eight years before. And still today was rarely seen on the Olympic stage due to its low success rate and nauseating amount of spin. But this was it, the time to try anything and reach for freedom. Freedom from fear, freedom from expectations, and, most exciting of all, freedom from gravity. A blaze exploded in her chest and she grinned assuredly as she launched herself up the wall of the pipe. All in.

 

Seconds later, with the world a blur, she was on the ground, shoulders over torso, over hips, over legs, over feet, over skis, perfectly upright and sailing towards the finish amidst an exuberant announcement thundering over the PA and the deafening roar of a captive audience rewarded. Korra could barely hear over the cacophonous pounding of her heart but she caught a few choice words. Korra. First place. Guaranteed medal. Unbelievable. Redemption.

 

The pats on her shoulder came more forcefully than yesterday, propelled by the joy of thrilled congratulations. The recounting of her run washed over her in a haze, drowned by the overwhelming cheering of her name. As soon as she came to a full stop, her teammates swarmed her and stomped her out of her skis, jostling her with hugs and squeals and shakes and other celebrations too numerous to remember. 

 

Korra barely had the ability to smile as the energy of her success buzzed around her. As soon as her friends let her go, she sank to her knees and stared blankly up at the sky. I did it.

 

I can’t believe… she peeled off her helmet and goggles. A few clouds traveled lazily across the blue, blissfully ignorant of the life changing events that had just transpired below. Just as they’d done eight years ago, when the clouds were all Korra could see from her immobile, broken heap in the snow.

 

I did it.

 

Katara’s face, the first one that had appeared in front of the sky so long ago, slid into view with a glowing smile. Korra noticed cold against her cheeks where tears had left their tracks. But now, with Katara’s pride beaming down at her, she found the joy beating within her chest. A joy multiplied by the years she’d spent believing she’d never feel it.

 

It tore its way out from the depths of her soul in a wild laugh and she leapt to her feet, ski boots be damned, and swept Katara into a deep embrace. “We did it Katara!”

 

“You did it, Korra.” Her coach held her with the care of a proud mother and Korra felt tears hot in her eyes again. 

 

“THAT’S MY DAUGHTER AND YOU. WILL. LET. ME. THROUGH.” Her dad’s voice boomed over the sounds of the resumed competition and Korra and Katara laughed together. Korra released her and ran to the rescue of the poor security guard that was trying to hold back the monumental tide of Tonraq.

 

After some calming words and a thorough security check, her mom and dad enfolded her in warmth and a fountain of love. “We are so proud of you, honey.” Senna’s voice came muffled through the press of their group hug and the sniffles of joy long overdue. Bubbling laughter kept tumbling out of her and Korra could do nothing but laugh and cry and clutch her parents tight.

 

She swam in the eager felicitations and attention from the Olympic world around her as the two remaining skiers took their runs. Korra had guaranteed herself a place on the podium by placing first with only two competitors left. Even if they both exceeded her score, she’d go home with a bronze medal hanging from her neck. She was overjoyed, exultant at simply having finished, let alone medaled. But her teammates, parents, and coach teetered on their toes as they watched the other athletes vye for Korra’s position. 

 

The first skier skidded to a stop with her head hung, knowing full well she hadn’t improved over her prior run. Silver. The suspense began to gnaw at Korra and she joined Katara in the crowd, clutching her hand tightly as they watched the final competitor launch herself into the pipe. Korra looked on with bated breath as the American skier executed each of her movements with precise perfection. The faster she approached the end of the run, the higher her score mounted and the closer she came to toppling Korra from the top of the podium.

 

All eyes were on the screens as the USA skier skidded into the finishing area. It was the judges’ game now. Canada or USA for gold. 

 

Three eternal seconds later came the score. 

 

Katara’s hand squeezed hers with silent, overwhelming pride and they shared a broad, elated smile before Korra bounded away to congratulate the American skier who had just earned herself a silver medal. 

 

-

 

Once the competition officially closed and the venue began its transformation for the medal ceremony, Daniel throttled her with a hug from nowhere. A scowling, towering Tonraq seized him by the collar and hauled him away before he noticed Korra’s beaming welcome to the man. 

 

“Ahem, sorry, uh…?” Her dad said as he set Daniel upright.

 

“Daniel.” The coach answered as he patted down his Team USA jacket. “It’s nice to finally meet you, sir. Korra’s told me a lot about you.”

 

“And I’ve heard a lot about you, Daniel.” Her dad’s eyebrows rose as he recognized Korra’s friend from New Zealand. “Thanks for all you’ve done for my little girl.” Tonraq extended a hand and Daniel shook it firmly.

 

“With all due respect sir, you and I both know it’s all her.”

 

Her dad laughed and clapped Daniel on the shoulder with a hearty nod.

 

Daniel beamed at him then turned to Korra. “Congratulations. I knew you could do it.” He squeezed her shoulder. “And boy am I glad you’ll be in our corner the next time around.”

 

Korra laughed and nodded. “Lucky you, huh?”

 

“Definitely. When do you think you’ll announce?”

 

“Uh… I haven’t planned it really? Figured I’d just answer honestly when a reporter asks.” She shrugged noncommittally and her parents chuckled along with Daniel. 

 

“I'm glad you plan out your lessons more thoroughly than that.” Danny teased. “Otherwise I don’t think you would’ve gotten the job.”

 

“With the recommendation you wrote me?” Korra retorted with a laugh. “They practically shoved the contract in my lap the moment I walked in the door. It’s gonna be fun to work with you again Danny.”

 

“It will. I’m really looking forward to it. June and I would love to have you for dinner when you’re in town.”

 

Korra brightened at the mention of their mutual friend and co-instructor, now Daniel’s wife. “How is June? When is she due again?”

 

“She’s doing great.” Danny smiled fondly and Korra melted a little at the love shining so clearly in his expression. “June adores Lake Placid. Though with the pregnancy, she’s definitely been missing skiing this season. She’s due in May, so by the time you arrive you’ll get to meet the little one! And, of course, ski with her next winter. She’s so excited that you’ll be living nearby. Keeps reminding me to ‘tell Kor she’s going to love it up here.’” He chuckled then gave Korra an earnest smile. “But you should take some time off first. You’ve earned it.”

 

“Oh yes, I’m dying for a vacation. Maybe I’ll even let myself ski for fun!”

 

He laughed and patted Korra on the shoulder before excusing himself and waving on his way back to the Team USA tent.

 

“Will he be coaching with you, honey?” Her mom asked. “He seems lovely.”

 

“Sort of; he coaches snowboard cross.” Korra explained. “We’ll definitely run into each other, but we’ll be working on different teams.”

 

“And you’re sure you don’t want to take that offer with the Canadian team instead?” Senna asked sweetly, probably for the hundredth time. “You can live with—I mean, near us. It would be wonderful for you to be close by.”

 

“You know I’d love to be close to you guys forever.” She wrapped an arm around her mother’s shoulders. “But I’m really excited about getting to live in New York. They say upstate is beautiful. And Team USA travels so much more. I promise I’ll visit a ton!” She leaned forward and kissed her mom on the cheek just as the ceremony’s opening music began to play.

 

**

 

Asami was underprepared for this. As much as she adored Korra, it still sent her for a loop whenever Korra gave any indication she felt the same. And this particular demonstration of affection—finding and holding Asami’s gaze as an Olympic medal was draped around her neck—was a world beyond what Asami had prepared herself to feel.

 

She’d affectionately watched Korra scanning the audience as she waited behind the silver and bronze medalists. And she’d softened at the crooked smile that broadened when Korra’s eyes found hers. She’d even managed a discreet wave that had sent Korra’s smile sprawling wider and set her own heart to thumping. 

 

But none of that came close to shouldering the entire weight of Korra’s focus as she received the highest honor of this event. Asami stood frozen in place, her chest a vice around her heart. She had trouble discerning the expressions in the blue of Korra’s eyes from this distance, but one shone true and clear: intent. And the purpose with which Korra gazed at her from across the crowd burned through Asami like a wildfire, stripping her of everything but the inextricable tether that linked her to the woman on the podium. 

 

Here, with yards and yards of snow and people and cameras between them, Asami was more Korra’s than she had ever been. 

 

She’d taken a leap of faith in coming to Salt Lake, unsure if she’d find her hopes reciprocated or dashed. She’d come intending to support Korra in every way she could, every way she was allowed. Considering the charge between them the last time they’d seen each other, she perhaps could even presume to have a night or two together, a week or two if she got lucky. 

 

And then, at the right time, she’d hoped to ask a question. The question. The one that was as much a confession as it was a query and had pounded on the walls of her chest for months now. Do you want to make this work? Because I do.

 

She knew how thoroughly it would ruin her to receive anything other than a resounding ‘yes.’ But it needed to be done. Her soul begged to know and her heart ached to try, to offer Korra everything. And if she had to be torn apart to at least find the answer, then so be it.

 

Then again, perhaps she didn’t need to ask to know.

 

If the certainty in Korra’s eyes was any indication, Asami realized with a start that she might not return home cradling a broken heart. The thought cascaded a shiver down her spine and she sucked in a breath, overcome by a sudden urge to let Korra see, to express the intensity of what she felt for her, because of her. 

 

From this distance, she had little recourse. Blowing a kiss was… no. So, with all the earnestness of a hopeful soul in love, she clasped her hands together and pressed them to her chest. She pushed against the beating of her heart to keep it contained and smiled. A small gesture but an expression nonetheless.

 

Korra’s chin tipped up at the motion and Asami watched her smile grow until her cheeks nearly pushed her eyes closed. Asami felt her heartbeat quicken under her hands. Perhaps her faith would be rewarded.

 

**

 

If she thought Daniel’s hug an impactful surprise, she’d severely underestimated the power Jinora could pack. Not two steps away from the podium, the wily med student leapt—a genuine, full send leap—into Korra’s arms. As Jinora tucked arms and legs around her and shrieked exuberant expressions of pride and excitement and love, Korra had to drop whatever knicknacks she’d been given to balance and keep them from falling into a tangled heap in the snow. 

 

“Korraaa you are amazing. I’m so proud of you!” Jinora tightened her arms around Korra’s neck and squished her fiercely. “You deserve this so much. I’m going to buy you so many drinks.”

 

Uncontrolled laughter to which Korra had only just grown accustomed surged from her throat and she half-cried as she held Jinora up. “I’m so glad you could make it.”

 

“And miss this? Never.” Her ex-roommate loosened her grip and jumped to the ground. She hastily picked up the items she’d forced Korra to drop and dragged her towards the crowd. “Come on, my dad’s here and he’s dying to see you!”

 

“O-okay.” Korra had no time to respond as the surprisingly strong young woman pulled her by the arm. She stole a second to look over her shoulder and search for Asami again. Damnit. The event staff had already begun to clear the audience. A moment later she spotted her, also glancing over a shoulder as she was led away, but watching Korra with a warm smile from afar. The sweet wave of her fingers and subtle tilt of her head was all Korra needed to understand that they would see each other later. With a goofy grin she nodded and relaxed into the warmth of the family that awaited her.

 

Chapter Text

Korra [15:44]

I’m sorry I missed you earlier :( I blame Jinora.

 

They’d been home for all of two minutes before Asami’s phone buzzed. Korra’s next message came before Asami had time to recover from her smile and formulate a response.

 

Korra [15:44]

Are you free tonight? There’s a party for the ski team and I’d love it if you came. Bring the crew!

 

Opal snatched the device from her hands before she’d finished swooning. Asami yelped and grabbed at it to no avail as Opal scooted away and held it against her chest. “I’ll bet I know what’s making you all goony. Or, should I say, who.” She waggled her eyebrows, then glanced at the phone and grinned. “Looks like you’ve been asked out.” Her devilish smile widened as her thumbs danced over the screen. Then, to the rest of the house she shouted, “Boys, we’re going to a party tonight!”

 

Asami would have never said no, but Opal’s acceptance of the invitation on her behalf was terrifying. She scrambled to recover the cell phone and read what her friend had sent.

 

Asami [15:45]

Can’t wait ;-)

 

Well, wasn’t she cheeky? The ‘can’t wait’ felt embarrassingly accurate. But the wink? It belied a confidence Asami wasn’t yet sure she’d gathered.

 

Some of it grew as she got dressed. The lacy undergarments Opal insisted she wear beneath her outfit did have a way of boosting her esteem. Something about wearing devastating lingerie under any get-up always served as a private, self-gratifying power trip. Especially in business meetings.

 

She tried not to think about the possibility of Korra discovering said devastating lingerie. Too much fantasizing—or nervous anticipation; whichever was responsible for the tightness that gripped her throat when she thought of Korra close to her—would cloud her judgement. Judgement she sorely needed to ensure she didn’t intrude on Korra’s celebration or assume too much about Korra’s expectations.

 

The rest of her outfit was more… deliberate. Obscured for the most part by a leather jacket, she chose the same shirt she’d worn on their night out in Vancouver almost three years ago. The one that Korra had zipped up for her so memorably, trailing her knuckles over Asami’s skin and torching all her capability for rational thought. Dr. Beifong would probably delight in picking apart the hidden meanings behind the choice if given the chance, but Asami simply gave in to the poetic impulse without questions.

 

She stuck to regular length boots this time. 

 

Asami was glad for her more subdued choice when they arrived at the bar and Korra blithely pulled her aside to introduce her to her parents. Making sure her jacket was indeed closed far enough to cover up the low cut of her shirt, she thanked whatever serendipitous instinct had compelled her to keep her coat on. ‘Provocative’ was not the first impression she wanted to make.

 

“You look really nice.” Korra said sheepishly. In my coat?

 

Asami couldn’t have contained her smile if she’d tried. She did try to keep herself from blushing but that didn’t work either. “Thank you,” she answered bashfully. A needling part of her brain added, “You’re looking pretty snazzy yourself.”

 

Korra snorted and chuckled and scrunched up her nose in the most adorable embarrassment Asami had ever seen. When she faced Asami again, her cheeks were red but her eyes glinted with a smile. “I think I deserved that,” she simpered.

 

She hadn’t, really. Not at all. But Asami couldn’t find it in herself to regret the comment that had begotten such a delightful reaction. “You look beautiful.” Asami amended, intending to give Korra the appreciation she did deserve. The patent adoration in her own voice surprised her, and she blushed right along with Korra in the echo of her words.

 

In her tight jeans and worn leather boots, Korra indeed looked stunning. She made Asami question the entire necessity of dressing up at all. With nothing fancier than a tank top and a thick, unbuttoned flannel shirt over top, Korra blended the word ‘casual’ into edgy, confident, relaxed, and inviting. Every part of the outfit reflected her candor and warmth. Whatever portion of her short hair could be kept back was up in a bun. The rest flopped loosely around her face, framing it in a way an intentional style could never manage. She had applied a hint of make-up that accentuated her eyes such that Asami had an incredibly difficult time noticing anything else. 

 

Korra looked exactly like the person Asami would love to run into at home after a long day’s work. Every day. Maybe forever. She looked like home.

 

And she felt like home, too, when she gave Asami’s hand an entirely-too-brief squeeze before picking up her pace to reach her parents.

 

“Mom, Dad! C’mere!” She waved excitedly as they approached. “I want you guys to meet someone.” Korra placed a hand on Asami’s back—upper back, mercifully—and shoved her forward, none too gently in her enthusiasm.

 

Limiting her stumble to a mere shift of stance, Asami introduced herself when she noticed Korra was too busy beaming between her and her parents to remember how. “Hi. I’m Asami. It’s a pleasure to meet you both.”

 

“Asami!” Korra’s father exclaimed. “Korra’s told us so much about you!” Instead of taking her proffered hand, he grasped her shoulders and shook her with much more gentleness than Asami would ever have expected from a man his size and looked at her affectionately. Asami liked him immediately. “Says you’re one of the best students she ever had.” He winked at her and in it Asami saw the roots of a thousand of Korra’s playful expressions.

 

A natural, jovial smile found its way to her lips. “Oh I don’t know about that, sir. But Korra is easily the best instructor I’ve ever had.”

 

“Now, now, easy with the flattery. Wouldn’t want all that to go to her head.” He laughed genially and Asami glanced sideways to watch for Korra’s reaction at the quip. She found her grinning playfully and Asami smiled. The connection she sensed between them stirred an ache Asami hadn’t felt in a long time. “Please Asami, call me Tonraq.”

 

“Tonraq.” Asami nodded and smiled.

 

“And this is Senna, Korra’s mother.” Tonraq wrapped a proud arm around Korra’s clone and veritably radiated love as he looked between Senna and Korra. No wonder Korra felt so connected to her family; the affection and care shared among them was palpable even from where Asami stood. She couldn’t help but feel she was being shown something sacred and her heart fluttered.

 

“It’s so wonderful to finally meet you, Asami.” Senna said with a sweet smile. Her eyes were Korra’s and Asami observed at once that the distinctness of that blue came entirely from her mother. 

 

It also didn’t escape her notice that Senna flashed her daughter a knowing glance as she shook Asami’s hand. Korra, for her part, just nudged her mother’s shoulder, the barest hint of a whine in her face. Senna smiled to herself, a tiny private joke, before looking at Asami again. It all took place in the span of a second, but the unspoken communication was at once embarrassingly clear and achingly adorable.

 

“You as well,” Asami responded, fully intending to gloss over the silent conversation she’d witnessed. 

 

Her next words froze in her throat as a familiar face, a ghost of faded memory, materialized behind Senna and Korra as if from nowhere. The ghost floated straight towards them.

 

Asami felt the blood drain from her cheeks as she recognized the woman from Korra’s social media post nearly two and a half years ago. The woman whose face Korra had been smashing in with a loving kiss to the cheek. The woman who, beyond comprehension, maintained a chilling deadpan while Korra kissed her. It was a gesture Asami had only received from Korra a handful of times, and it had left her bare at every instance. That woman, with no personality evident in her appearance nor, Asami noticed, her gait, had left Asami nauseated and stung when she first saw her in Korra’s photo. She’d thought then that Korra had found someone else and moved on from their… feelings.

 

The nausea returned tenfold and Asami watched in disbelief as the woman—Edna?—approached. Her mind flashed with memories of her last dozen interactions with Korra. The barely withheld emotion, the tentative but laden touches, the expectation that infused everything they did together… after all of that, this woman was still in Korra’s life? Korra was still seeing someone else?

 

Asami wanted to run, to disappear into the darkness growing inside her and maybe find a place to relieve herself of her dinner. How could Korra be so deceitful? When had she become so deceitful? The only thing keeping Asami grounded and somewhat present was Korra’s parents. 

 

“Eska!” Korra exclaimed and Asami’s stomach churned. Eska, right. Eska stepped to one side. 

 

Jesus fuck. There are two of them.

 

A replica of the woman that sent icy daggers through Asami’s heart appeared beside her. “Desna!” Came Korra’s equally excited greeting. 

 

I need to get out.

 

“Cousin. Our compliments on your victories.” Eska said to Korra. Her voice was as monotone as she looked. Cousin?

 

“Thanks!” Korra beamed at the two carbon copies and wrapped an arm around each of them. The begrudging acceptance of physical contact appeared on both the faces at once and Asami blinked between them, lost for words.

 

Cousin?! Oh my go—

 

“Eska, do you remember when we saw that rugby match in New Zealand?” Double confirmed. 

 

“I do.”

 

Korra directed Eska’s attention to Asami, still dumbfounded and reeling from the violent relief washing over her in waves. The taste of bile hadn’t yet left her throat but she could at least breathe now. Major improvement. 

 

“Well this is the person I told you about, the one who played rugby in college.” Asami blinked in shock at Korra’s statement. Not only was Eska not Korra’s girlfriend, but Korra had been talking about Asami with her? The air in the room felt thin. Her assumptions and world were being flipped around on her far too quickly, far too many times. “This is Asami Sato.”

 

“Hello, Asami Sato.” Eska extended a rigid hand and Asami took it equally rigidly, dazed.

 

“Asami, these are my cousins, Eska and Desna.” Korra introduced them to Asami with an innocent, happy smile, oblivious to the storm that had just ravaged her.

 

She cleared her throat of the debris that cluttered it. “Pleased to meet you.” Asami managed.

 

“Likewise.” Desna spoke and the only way Asami could keep them straight in her head was because he stood to the right. If they’d switched while she blinked, she would’ve been none the wiser. “Eska is intrigued by your experience with the hooligan sport and I have queries about your enterprise, Future Industries. It would be enlightening to converse with you this evening.”

 

How could these people not move anything but their mouths when they spoke? Desna turned to Korra and said, in perfect deadpan, “Cousin, you neglected to mention that your friend is incredibly attractive. It is quite distracting.”

 

“Indeed.” Eska added.

 

All Asami could do was blink, head empty of segues to steer the conversation elsewhere. Korra gaped wide-eyed at her cousins and sputtered awkwardly, raising a hand to the back of her neck and swiveling her head between Asami and the clones with nothing helpful to offer. 

 

Tonraq’s howling laughter cut the tension like a knife. Asami turned to see Senna giggling, eyes glued on her daughter. Korra had now turned tomato red while Eska and Desna stood patiently, utterly unmoved by the squirming they’d produced. Asami hadn’t recovered enough self-awareness to know if she looked as dumbstruck as she felt. 

 

“Oh my god, Asami!” Jinora’s voice carried over the bustle of the bar and the awkward tension floating thickly around her and Korra. Oh good, relief. Asami turned, at once thrilled to see her friend and eager for a way, any way, out of this conversation. A split second later, Jinora crashed into her with an alarmingly strong hug. “It’s so good to see you!”

 

“Jinora, it’s been so long!” Asami squeezed her tightly as she smiled. “Congratulations on med school!”

 

As they stepped back, Jinora shot a weighted glance at Korra then beamed back at Asami. “Thank you! I’m so glad you’re here! Kai couldn’t make it, but the three of us can celebrate like old times!”

 

“Absolutely.” Asami pointed to Bolin, Opal, and Mako. “Not sure if you remember them, but Bolin and Opal are here, too. And Bolin’s brother, Mako.”

 

“I do! They were so fun!” The med student nodded vigorously. “Tonight’s going to be great!” She nudged Korra with an elbow and the instructor—no, the Olympian—grinned foolishly. 

 

“KORRAAAA!” A shout came from somewhere near the bar. “SHOTS.”

 

“That’s our cue.” Senna chimed in. 

 

“We’re out of here.” Tonraq beamed down at his daughter and swept her into a tight hug.

 

“Have fun tonight, sweetie.” Her mom kissed her lightly on the cheek and Korra leaned into it unabashedly. So cute.

 

As they shrugged on their coats, Tonraq turned back to Korra. “Drink lots of water.” Then he looked around the group gathered around his only child and made eye contact with each one of them in turn. “You take care of her, now.” He held Asami’s gaze for a wink longer than anyone else’s and Asami felt a solemn responsibility settle over her heart. One she hoped would extend beyond tonight.

 

**

 

Eager teammates dragged Korra away just as she’d gathered enough courage to reach for Asami’s hand. What had been intended as a tentative initiation, a shy admission of how hard it was for Korra not to touch her, wound up an apologetic hand graze-grasp-squeeze as she was hauled in another direction.

 

Asami’s surprised eyes met hers for an instant before filling with affectionate joy at the sight of Korra swarmed by her friends. With a subtle tilt of her chin and a flawless smile, Asami’s expression said ‘go, don’t worry about me.’

 

Reluctant, Korra let herself be taken. As her teammates surrounded her, shoving a shot glass full of clear liquid in her fingers and pointing to their new friends (Mako and Bolin) who had so generously bought this round for them, Korra compelled herself to relax into the warmth of this team that had grown into a family of sorts. 

 

“To Korra!” Ruby, another freestyle skier, held up her glass and the group echoed her.

 

Once the drink was down, the lime bitten, and the sting shaken off, Korra scanned the room for Asami. She found her sidled up to the bar beside Opal, removing her coat. Korra’s breath caught as she recognized the leather jacket and the scarlet shirt beneath it. She might have overlooked them had that night three years ago not seared itself into her memory in hundreds of tiny, unforgettable details. The zipper on that shirt was the most vivid of all. And just as she had in the hotel room that evening, Asami looked ravishing. 

 

Korra swallowed a lump in her throat and forgot about the people around her. Her feet carried her closer, uncontrollably drawn in by the need to be near her. She stopped dead at the consternation she caught in Asami’s voice. From her position, her approach as yet unnoticed, she could overhear their conversation. It felt somewhat shifty to eavesdrop, but at the sound of her own name the temptation to listen was too great to resist.

 

“...the woman Korra posted a photo with on her Instagram? The one she’d taken to the rugby match? Eska.” 

 

“Ooooh yeah I remember her.” Opal said with a long nod. “You were a mess after seeing that.”

 

A mess? Korra had no idea how a picture of Eska could have led Asami to be a mess but it twisted her stomach to imagine it.

 

“She’s here.” Asami said matter-of-factly.

 

Opal’s explosive reaction blew Korra two steps back. “She’s WHAT?!” The woman nearly shouted. “That’s some shit. I did not expect Korra to be that type.” What type? “She’s totally been leading you on and now invites you to a party to meet her fucking girlfriend?!” Oh no. Korra blinked, taken aback by the misunderstanding. “What a bitc—”

 

“Eska is her cousin,” Asami cut Opal off with a hand to her shoulder, urging her friend to keep it down. “Not her girlfriend.”

 

Opal blinked at her for a few seconds and Korra did the same, reeling from the understanding that, for at least a little while, Asami had believed Korra was seeing someone else. And she’d been a mess about it. Then and, most likely, now. Oh gosh Asami.

 

“Bahaha you’re kidding!” Opal cackled and stared in amused disbelief at the engineer, who shook her head pathetically and cast her eyes down at the bar. “Oh my god…” She laughed a while longer then turned to Asami with gentleness Korra hadn’t yet seen from her. “That must’ve been one hell of a rollercoaster. You doing okay, babe?”

 

Korra perked up at the question. She needed to know, too.

 

Asami heaved out a sigh. “Rollercoaster is a good word for it. I’m fine. Nothing’s actually wrong. I just…” Korra held her breath, nervous for the first time all night about Asami’s feelings towards her. “I need a drink.” 

 

Okay. Could be worse. As she released the tension that had been building in her chest, Korra seized her opportunity. She was done being far away from Asami. At least for a little while.

 

“Did I hear someone say they needed a drink?” She suffused as much smoothness into her tone as she could muster and didn’t resist her urge to place a hand on the small of Asami’s back as she approached. I’m here. All yours. Promise.

 

Opal and Asami both jumped and shared a panicked look that Korra pointedly ignored. She saw that Opal was already nursing a cocktail and turned to Asami playfully, keeping her hand in place. “If you haven’t had a drink yet, you’re behind.” 

 

“I guess I am.” The engineer responded with a sweet smile and Korra effectively melted. Her palm felt hot against Asami all of a sudden.

 

“I’ll get that taken care of right away.” Korra grinned after clearing her throat of its growing hoarseness and motioned to the bartender. With a confidence she didn’t know she had, Korra pressed her fingers into the engineer as she leaned over to order on her behalf. “High West Rye, please. Neat.” 

 

As the bartender scurried off, Asami and Opal both stared at her with raised eyebrows. Opal looked like she was doing everything in her power to stifle a smirk, which wasn’t much at all. Asami hovered between plain surprise and a timidness Korra immediately wanted to see more often. A second later Korra’s confidence deflated and she had to ask. “You still drink whiskey neat, right?”

 

“Mhmm.” Asami answered fluidly, the shyness gone and replaced by a self-assured darkness in her eyes that quickened Korra’s breath.

 

She cleared her throat. Again. “Well there’s this local distillery here; High West. Their stuff is great and I think you’ll like their rye. It’s really smooth.” The bartender returned and Korra swiftly slipped him her credit card as Asami reached for her drink. Asami’s eyes protested the action and Korra put her hands up defensively, quoting from memory: “‘I maintain a strict policy of not accepting payment from my friends for things I make them do.’”

 

Opal guffawed as Asami narrowed her eyes. Korra pushed her drink towards her hand. “Just try it and let me know what you think.”

 

She tried not to watch too closely as Asami nosed the whiskey and swirled it before tasting. Tried and failed. There was something unreasonably sexy about her meticulous evaluation and Korra had to fight to keep herself from clutching a fistful of Asami’s jacket as she watched Asami lick her lips lightly before setting them around the rim of the glass. 

 

Steady, Korra, she told herself as Asami hummed her approval of the flavors. Clearing her throat yet again, she hoped she didn’t sound too hoarse when she asked, “Like it?”

 

“Oh yes.” Asami answered, raising a finger to her lips to wipe off a stray droplet. Korra’s mouth nearly fell open. “It’s very good. Thank you, Korra.” Asami placed a warm hand on her upper arm and squeezed lightly as she leaned up from her seat to give Korra a kiss on the cheek.

 

Feeling very mushy indeed at the sound of her name falling mellifluously from those lips and the havoc they wreaked against her cheek, Korra barely managed to keep her internal squeal to herself. The wide, dopey smile that crinkled her eyes was a dead giveaway though. Oh well. Asami didn’t seem to mind as she pulled back with a happy glisten in her eyes. 

 

Was it too soon to take her and leave so they could be alone?

 

“Korra! The woman of the hour!” Bolin’s voice forewarned the two large hands that landed heavily on her shoulders. Yep, too soon. She turned to find Bolin’s eager eyes bubbling with excitement and her smile widened of its own accord. “Congrats friend!” He wrapped his arms around her and hefted her off the ground in a crushing hug. 

 

Once her feet were reacquainted with the floor, his face went from bubbly to timid in a flash. “Um… Korra, ahem, I was wondering...” his eyes wandered around the room as he poked his two index fingers together nervously. “Can you sign my shirt?”

 

“Pfft of course!” Korra grinned broadly. “A promise is a promise!”

 

“Yes!” Bolin punched a fist in the air. “See Mako, I told ya!” 

 

Korra had never been properly introduced to the tall man with the amber eyes. With such limited time after her events—and all her focus consumed by one person only—she’d not bothered to formally greet him. She delayed the inevitable for a few more seconds as Bolin thrust a permanent marker into her hand and turned around. He’d unbuttoned his collared shirt and tugged it down so Korra could sign on the shoulder blade of the white T-shirt he wore underneath.

 

“All set!” She finished with a flourish, as best as one could on fabric, and popped the cap back on the marker. Then, with a measured breath and a forced smile, she turned to the other brother and extended her hand. “You must be Mako. I’m Korra.”

 

“Nice to finally meet you, Korra.” He said. His tone compelled her to take a step closer to Asami. Then, with slightly less wariness, “Congratulations again. It was quite a performance.”

 

“Thanks.” She reminded herself that pointedly throwing an arm around Asami’s shoulders was probably unnecessary. Just move on. “I’m glad you’re all here! I hope you’ve had fun over the last few days!”

 

“Oh my god yes we have!” Bolin nodded exuberantly and began to recount his experience of the Games from behind the spectator fence. He was enthusiastic and earnest in his questions and left Korra at ease answering them all. Especially once she took another step and hovered close enough behind Asami to feel her warmth against her side.

 

They settled easily into conversation, Bolin and Opal eagerly engaging with Korra. Asami didn’t speak much but beamed at her the entire time, every once in a while shifting so she bumped against Korra’s frame. Mako interjected periodically and by their second round of drinks, Korra had almost begun to find him funny. In a ‘you’re too serious for life’ kind of way.

 

As soon as she was reminded how Mako and Asami had met, a wicked idea lit up the back of her mind. Was it maybe a little self-serving? Sure. Two and a half drinks in, Korra simply couldn’t care less.

 

“Mako, do you still play rugby?” Korra asked the next chance she got.

 

“Uh, here and there.” He seemed somewhat taken aback that Korra had addressed him directly.

 

“You should meet my cousin!” She had to remember not to dart her eyes over to Asami and Opal. “Eska came to watch the All Blacks with me when she visited New Zealand. She really enjoyed it and said she’d love to chat with someone who played.” 

 

Plus you’re pretty and I think she’ll like you.

 

“Uh, sure?” Poor Mako had no idea. 

 

“Let me go find her, I’ll be right back!” She excused herself with a brief touch to Asami’s waist that left her immediately regretting her decision to walk away, however briefly.

 

Unfortunately, her teammates had other plans for her ‘brief’ departure and snagged her as soon as she’d stepped away.

 

**

 

Snickering, Asami kept making eye contact with Opal. Eska was… an experience. She couldn’t decide which of the hundred scenarios she’d conjured was most likely to unfold between her and Mako but, intrigued by the promise of entertainment, she’d recovered from her cousin-induced stress. Korra’s almost continuous contact had helped immensely.

 

In the meantime, taking advantage of a moment without Korra at the bar, she ordered enough bottles of Moët to intoxicate the ski team in its entirety, whether they chose to spray it or not. The champagne was to be delivered an indeterminate amount of time later without any indication from whence it came. A private little gag gift for Korra. 

 

And a small revenge for Korra refusing to let her pay for a single beverage thus far. It was a strange feeling, bristling and swooning at once, each time Korra produced some whimsical excuse for why her credit card made it to the bartender in advance of Asami’s. Infallibly she’d also do something with her hands to distract Asami beyond argument. She was cheating and it worked marvelously every time.

 

As her eyes wandered lazily about the bar, Asami spotted Korra at the center of an exuberant circle of skiers and a smile instantly made itself at home on her lips. Korra was glowing, laughing and jostling her teammates with her contagious ease. It was unmistakable how loved she was. Asami’s heart soared at the sight of Korra’s spirit so buoyant, vibrantly breathing joy into those around her. 

 

Honestly, she was somewhat glad Korra had been stolen by her people. Tonight’s celebration was meant to revolve around her and this team and their accomplishments together. Asami didn’t want to pull focus from that. Seeing Korra so incandescently happy, among those that shared her passion and cared for her dearly; it was what Asami wanted most for her. She looked like she belonged.

 

And that was where the uncertainty came in. The self-doubt that coiled underneath their wonderful flirtations and generous touches lurched once again in the pit of Asami’s stomach. The doubt gnawed at her and she sighed against the sinking feeling. No matter how much thought she gave it, no matter how much she wanted it, she couldn’t see how she fit into the heartwarming picture of Korra’s happiness in this world. 

 

Her leap of faith in coming here had been to find out if Korra did see a way, if she saw something Asami did not. She just needed to know. But as Korra spent more time with her, looked at her, touched her, practically consumed her with nothing but her presence, Asami’s quiet hope blazed into a desperate need that left her more vulnerable and wanting than she could ever remember feeling. The possibility of an eventual dismissal grew more and more devastating with every second Korra gave her.

 

She watched with a smile and a bittersweet ache pulsing in her chest as Korra threw her head back to laugh while clutching at a teammate’s shoulder. 

 

“Hey look, that’s Korra!” Bolin announced, tapping Asami’s shoulder insistently. He was pointing to one of the TV’s that hung above the bar, where the skier’s face had appeared next to that of a reporter. 

 

‘Korra, what an amazing day for you! Your second gold medal in as many days. How do you feel?”

 

The breathy laugh from TV Korra, along with her slightly red-rimmed eyes from tears of joy, found Asami smiling up at the screen. ‘I, uh, honestly don’t have words for this. It’s been an amazing adventure and I feel so lucky to be here.’

 

‘You really brought your A-game to these Olympics. Especially after such a long recovery.’ Korra, humble as ever, shrugged with a sweet crooked smile. ‘After such a breathtaking performance, we’re all wondering: what do we have to look forward to from you? What’s next for you, Korra?’

 

Asami’s eyebrows found her hairline and stayed there as Korra glanced sideways, let her smile grow and responded, ‘These last few days have been a dream come true for me. And truly something I’d never thought I’d experience again. But I decided a little while ago that this would be my last year competing, and that hasn’t changed. I’ll be retiring at the end of the season.’

 

The reporter seemed just as shocked as Asami. (And as Bolin, who shrieked a high-pitched ‘what?!’ loud enough to turn a few heads.) ‘Wow! I gotta say that’s not what I was expecting to hear! Any plans for your post-athletic career?’

 

It appeared that the only way Asami was to learn about major changes in Korra’s life was through television interviews. ‘Well, my second passion after skiing has always been teaching. So what better way to go than to teach skiing? I’ve taken a position as a coach with the US Ski Team.’

 

Shock and surprise and an inexplicable hurt pummeled Asami in turn as she watched the reporter good-naturedly rib Korra about jumping ship. Korra fielded the question effortlessly with a joke that Asami could barely hear over the ringing in her ears. She looked down and hastily emptied what was left of her drink. She’d seen enough.

 

“I’m going to step outside for a bit.” Asami said distantly as she grabbed her coat. 

 

“You want some company?” Mako offered swiftly. He straightened and stepped forward before Opal and Bolin finished exchanging a concerned glance. His eyebrows were drawn together and worry laced his eyes. He’d already reached for his coat.

 

“No, I’m okay.” She put a hand on his arm to stop him. “Just need a few minutes. Stay here, enjoy.” The space between his eyebrows practically disappeared with his disagreement but, knowing Asami as he did, he swallowed his protest and merely nodded curtly. She was certain his expression deepened as he watched her walk away.

 

Aiming for the side exit, Asami remembered the bar’s website boasted a lovely patio, open even in the winter. She smiled softly at the sight of the area, clearly curated for comfort even during the coldest months of the year. High-top tables and barstools dotted the space, loosely ringing a handful of raised fire pits that burned warm and bright. A thick blanket was draped over the back of each chair, extending an invitation Asami couldn’t resist. She chose a table that offered her an unobstructed view of the moon rising, round and splendid above the snow-covered pines around the clearing. Tucking a coverlet around herself, she angled her seat to catch some warmth from the nearby fire and glanced up at the myriad of stars she was never given the luxury of enjoying in New York. 

 

This is beautiful. She sighed as she settled, genuinely warm in her nest between the blanket and the burgeoning heat from the steady flames. It was at once a shame and a blessing no one else was out here to appreciate this with her. The crackle of a log snapped loud against the muted sounds of revelry and, alone and away from it all, Asami sought solace in the heat of the flames and the wintry crispness of the night. But, while the serenity of the space soothed a bit of her tension, the brunt of the turmoil remained unshaken. Asami turned inward to make sense of her emotions.

 

Why had the news of Korra’s retirement upset her so? Was it because Korra hadn’t told her sooner? They had exchanged no more than a few words since she arrived—Korra had been understandably preoccupied. Her only other opportunity to share in person would have been in Toronto and back then, it might not have been a decision yet. 

 

Then again, as Asami questioned whether she had any right to feel slighted, she realized that not knowing, while bluntly disappointing, wasn’t the source of the sharp anguish that drove her outdoors to wallow in her thoughts.

 

No, the thought that made her throat close up and want to run away, shamefully enough, was that Korra had a plan. A plan likely based on what she wanted for herself and her career, one that would empower her to attain all the success Asami wished for her. And, the more evident Korra’s plans became, the less room Asami saw for herself within them. No matter how Asami belonged to her, no matter how much of Asami’s soul she would walk away with wherever she went, Korra was moving forward with her life. Independently. As she should, Asami thought bitterly. It didn’t stop it from hurting.

 

She sighed her troubles into a breath that clouded in the cool air. She’d come here hoping for reciprocation and fooled herself into accepting Korra’s mutual desire as a willingness to build something real together. But, besides indicating she’d wanted to see Asami again at the Games, Korra had betrayed no citable evidence that she saw space for Asami in her life beyond this trip. 

 

A chill swept through her and, for the second time tonight, Asami wished she had a drink to swirl along with her self-doubt. The limb on which she’d climbed to reach Korra felt suddenly too weak, drooping dangerously under the unanticipated weight of her hope and her presumptions. She had to decide if she should back away now, preserving what little of herself was left, or if she should plow forward, caution be damned, and fall as long and hard as she knew she would if that limb cracked.

 

**

 

During a lull in the conversation, Korra snuck away. So much for ‘be right back.’ She searched the room for Eska and Desna and dragged the both of them towards the bar without much explanation.

 

She noticed Asami missing during her introductions. “... and Mako. He played rugby with Asami in college.” Eska’s eyes darted imperceptibly up and down Mako’s front as she shook his hand dispassionately. A glowing approval. Korra smiled to herself and quickly jumped to the topic that interested her. 

 

“Speaking of which… where is Asami?” She thought she’d asked casually enough, but must have stumbled into awkwardness because the three friends stared back at Korra like she’d just suggested they all go skinny dipping. What?

 

When they shared a series of concerned glances between them before answering, Korra’s heart leapt to her throat. Did something happen? What’s going on? She bit her tongue, trying to keep herself from inserting irrational desperation into a situation that might warrant none.

 

“She’s out on the patio.” Opal said finally, too seriously for Korra’s liking. 

 

Her eyebrows pulled together and she ventured one of the questions flying furiously around in her head. “Is something wrong?”

 

“I think you should go talk to he