Republic City’s grand ballroom was aglow with bright lights and alive with jazzy music. Large crowds of citizens dressed in their finest swayed and talked and laughed while feasting on celebratory champagne and the city’s finest cuisine, which was laid out on a buffet as long as the ballroom itself.
Asami Sato stood in the midst of it all, center stage next to Varrick as he retold the tale their final battle against Kuvira’s army for what she imagined must be at least the thirtieth time that evening. Zhu Li stood at his side rather than her usual place in the background. She had been arm in arm with the tycoon but that was before Varrick began talking with his hands, waving his arms through the air haphazardly as he over-embellished the details of story in only the way he could. The crowd of elites that had gathered round – everyone from Cabbage Corps C.E.O. to a few people she recognized from President Raiko’s cabinet – were listening intently, eyes wide in awe, laughing loudly at Varrick’s animated story-telling. Asami, on the other hand, was hardly listening. She had exchanged the occasional exasperated look or eye roll with Zhu Li behind Varrick’s back whenever she overheard bits like “We were surrounded, the last defense of Republic City, just the two of us –” or “- and I had to laboriously crawl my way out from the wreckage, all while hundreds of earth benders tried to bury us…”
Not only was Asami uninterested in this particular retelling of that day because of who was telling it, she was also very distracted by her own thoughts and memories as she sipped from her champagne glass and tried to look like she was enjoying herself.
The airborn mecha tank shook from the impact of the blast.
“We’ve been hit!” Asami heard Korra yelling from below her in their shared suit. In any other situation, she might have poked fun at her friend for stating the obvious but she was frantically trying to save them from becoming splatter on the Republic City pavement.
[Right thrusters failing, losing altitude…] Asami heard the computer echo Korra’s concerns in its robotic voice. “Really, I hadn’t noticed…” Asami spoke mostly to herself, trying to calm her nerves as she toggled the controls, trying to compensate for the loss of propulsion on their right side.
[1,000 feet…900 feet…]
“Asami…” Korra’s voice sounded nervous when she didn’t reply directly.
“I think I can stabilize us enough but brace yourself… This is not going to feel good,” Asami shouted as she realized that the emergency ejection pod system didn’t seem to be working.
Suddenly she saw a glow from below her lighting up their shared cockpit.
[400 feet… 200 feet…]
Air currents began swirling around her body and it nearly knocked the wind out of her. She heard the groan and crunch of metal all around her and braced herself to feel the impacts on her own body any second, earthen green eyes squeezed tightly shut in anticipation…
And suddenly, everything was still and quiet, save for the whipping of the air currents. Asami eyes slowly fluttered open. Awe struck her face they shifted into focus. She was hovering just 10 feet from the wreckage of her dragon-fly hummingbird inspired creation, the blue and red metal twisted and torn like it was an old rag doll. Korra was hovering just a foot away from herself. Strong air currents wove themselves below and between the two women, whipping the hair on their heads all around. Korra’s eyes were glowing with a blinding, ethereal light that Asami knew was the Avatar state, though this was the first time she’d ever seen it this close before. It was a bit unnerving to not see the sky blue reflecting from Korra’s eyes. Asami knew logically that the woman before her was still Korra, the same Korra she had spent countless late nights talking with and thinking about, the same Korra whose warm presence made her feel relaxed and at home, the same Korra she had been in love with for more than 3 years…
At the same time, Asami was overcome with the power and brilliance that emitted from her friend’s face. She was still Korra but also so much more… So ancient. So powerful. The experience left the hairs on Asami’s neck standing on edge and turtleduck bumps scattered around her arms under her pilot jacket long after they had descended to the ground.
As the warm blue returned to Korra’s eyes, Asami became aware that she was clasping Korra’s forearms which had been extended outwards in her bending stance as they descended. Before she became self-conscious and decided to remove them from her friend, Korra clasped her arms with her own firm grip.
“Are you okay?” the Avatar asked, concern flooding her face.
Yeah… Just a little stunned is all…” Asami answered, trying not to sound as breathless as she felt. Korra held her gaze for a long moment, a curious expression on her face. Asami felt as if she was being analyzed. But before she could question the look, Korra broke it, pulling away gently, almost hesitantly.
"I have to go stop Kuvira…”
Asami nodded, returning to the present situation. “Go. I’ll try to find Varrick and Zhu Li. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine,” Asami assured Korra as she looked hesitant and concerned again. Finally, satisfied that Asami was in fact safe for the time being, she nodded solemnly and made to leave.
“Korra…” Asami surprised herself as she grabbed Korra’s retreating forearm without thinking. The water tribe native turned to face the engineer once more. Asami could no longer find her voice, a lump forming in her throat. The last time they had parted in this manner, Korra had almost not returned. The engineer was the last person on the earth that would doubt this woman’s abilities but she couldn’t help the knot of worry forming in her stomach. She couldn’t help feeling like there was so much she still needed to say to her. But there were no words that came to her mind, despite her usual quick wit.
Korra smiled in understanding and pulled her forward in a firm, warm embrace. Asami felt muscular arms wrap around to her back and fingers thread through her hair. She held onto Korra tightly, nuzzling into her disheveled bob, breathing in the shorter woman's musky scent . Despite all the sweat and smokiness of the crash, it still comforted the engineer.
When they broke apart, it was Korra who spoke. “Hey, remember. I’m the Avatar. I got this,” she said with a confident smirk, nudging Asami with her elbow playfully. Despite herself, Asami smiled in turn, watching her friend a s she walked towards the center of the city.
Be careful…” Asami finally said quietly as she watched Korra disappear behind rubble.
“Hey there, beautiful lady,” Asami jumped at the unwelcomed voice by her ear, interrupting her reverie. She swiveled on her black heels and, despite her usual poise, couldn’t help the glare that seeped into her expression at the sight of Prince Wu. She immediately took a long swig of her champagne to cover herself.
“You do recall I have a name, right?” She asked, trying and failing to keep the disappointment from her voice at the Prince’s presence.
“Of course I do, Asami! Who could forget a name like that? Rolls right off the tongue… Speaking of which –” Asami prepared herself for the lewd pick up line that was sure to follow while seriously debating whether or not she could get away unseen if she knocked the smug expression right off his all-too-close face with her perfectly manicured fist. Lucky for Wu and her beautiful nails, they were interrupted with a “May I cut in?”
Asami spun around once more and her gaze fell to those dazzling blue eyes. Korra stood in front of her, arms at her sides, a smirk playing on her lips. She wore a full length, dark blue gown that shimmered like velvet. The neck cut asymmetrically right to left down from her shoulder – which was fully sleeved to her wrist - to under her left arm. Over her left shoulder she wore a pelt that resembled the one she usually wore around her waist with her tunic, except that it was a variegated grey. Her hair was clipped back with silver and blue hair pieces that bore contemporary water tribe designs.
“Hey,” Asami said with her first genuine smile of the night lighting up her face.
“Hey,” Korra replied back, eyes fixed on hers in a way that made Asami’s stomach tumble more than crashing any mecha suit could.
“Hey, hey, hey,” came Prince Wu’s voice as he attempted to insert himself into the small space between the two women. “Avatar Korra, might I say you’re looking lovely this evening-”
“Hey Wu, I think Mako was looking for you… he mentioned something about someone releasing some bees in the hall. Maybe you should go find him,” Korra said without even breaking her gaze from Asami.
“Bees?! I’m allergic to bees! Mako! Help!” cried Wu with as much exaggeration as a five-year-old as he ran in the direction by which Korra came. Korra and Asami finally broke the intense contact as they giggled together, watching the Prince run in a panic.
“Mako is not going to appreciate that…” Asami finally said. “But I certainly do.”
Korra shrugged with a sideways smirk. “I think he still owes us one every now and again.” A silence followed as Asami finished off her champagne in an attempt to calm the nerves that were misfiring all over her body now that it was just the two of them again.
“Mind if I steal you away… for a dance?” Korra asked, offering out her hand to Asami. Asami hesitated for a moment out of pure astonishment, but nodded with a smile, quickly discarding her champagne glass onto a tray. She placed her pale hand into Korra’s darker one, admiring the contrast in both complexion and texture. Korra’s calloused hand gripped hers firmly as she lead the way through the throng of Republic City and Earth Kingdom citizens out onto the dance floor. Asami, for her part, felt like she was floating through the crowd, although that might have been the buzz from the champagne.
The string section of the orchestra began playing a slow, sweet melody as Korra turned to face Asami, her look of confidence faltering a bit.
“Erm… You know, I actually don’t know how to ballroom dance so much…” Korra stated bashfully, scratching at her left bare bicep. Asami let out a chuckle, the tension in her body dissipating as she regained her own self-assurance.
Asami took a step closer to the shorter woman so that their faces were only inches apart. She managed to hold Korra’s gaze and her own composure, despite the mirror blushes that crept up both their faces. Asami swore she heard her friend gulp as she guided one of Korra’s hands to her hip and placed her own on Korra’s shoulder. Asami positioned their other mirroring hands up to shoulder height, placing her own atop Korra’s palm.
“Now, just lead me where you want me to go using your hands,” Asami stated simply. When Korra hesitated, Asami added, “It’s a lot like waterbending if you think about it. You’re just guiding my movements the way you would your opponent’s energy.”
A light dawned on Korra’s face suddenly, her usual bravado renewed. She began to guide them to the beat of the symphony, slow but steady. She was actually quite a natural, Asami mused – much better than the many heirs she had danced with at these parties over the years, whose families probably spent absurd amounts of money on their lessons.
“You look wonderful in your dress by the way… I like your hair like that, too,” Korra complimented with a small tilt of her head. That curious expression that the engineer couldn’t quite place was back. Asami felt heat rise to her face and she had to break their eye contact briefly as she mumbled a thank you. The CEO felt she was surely going to melt under the water tribe woman’s burning blue gaze. She tried to focus instead on the music and the tender yet firm way Korra lead them around the dance floor in small, sweeping circles. Asami could feel the strength reserved in her brown hands and arms as they held her hip firmly – she felt lighter than usual, almost as if Korra was lifting her as they stepped in sync with one another. When she turned back to her friend, she noticed how the lights in the ballroom made Korra’s eyes sparkle in a way that reminded Asami of the sea at midday in full sun.
“Your new dress really brings out the blue in your eyes,” Asami finally said, her wine-colored lips forming a shy smile. The champagne must have given her liquid courage. It was Korra’s turn to blush, but she didn’t break their gaze. Instead she paused their step as the melody peaked and pulled the taller girl flush against her. Korra dropped Asami’s hand and brought her own bronze one to the nape of her neck, gently pulling their lips together in a soft, undemanding kiss.
Asami’s breath hitched in surprise and she was still wide-eyed when Korra pulled away sheepishly. The engineer recovered quickly though, both her hands rising up to cup Korra’s cheeks as she leaned in to continue the kiss, deepening it immediately this time. She felt Korra’s own hands slip around her waist, moving up and down her back which was exposed due to the cut of her dress. Asami shivered from the heat in those hands and she vaguely wondered if Korra’s fingers were always so warm or if she was cleverly using fire bending. They finally broke the kiss to catch their breath, foreheads touching in an effort not to stray far from one another’s lips.
“I’ve been waiting to do that for over three years,” Korra whispered. Asami couldn’t keep the smile from her face and opened her eyes to see her happiness reflecting back at her through Korra’s own upturned mouth. “I’m just sorry it took so long.”
“It was worth the wait,” Asami answered with a sigh.
The Avatar planted another chaste kiss on her mouth and then suddenly Asami felt her feet leaving the ground. She clutched her arms around Korra’s shoulders as the shorter woman lifted her effortlessly by her waist, spinning her round, both their dresses billowing out from the sudden movement as she kissed Asami again, laughing against her mouth. Asami giggled at Korra’s open display of mirth and felt as though a flurry of dragonfly hummingbirds were flying around in her stomach.
When Korra finally placed her back on the ground, she led her into the dance again. They moved fluidly together and this time Korra threw in a few twirls, spinning Asami out and away from her before drawing her back into her arms. When the music finally slowed and the piece changed to something more jazzy and fast-paced once more, the two women stopped but did not release one another. Asami who had been caught up in the merriment of the moment and had forgotten they were, in fact, at a city-wide gala, became suddenly aware of how many people were now staring at her and Korra.
She really didn’t have the sense to care at all.
“Do you want to get out of here?” Korra asked suddenly, eyebrows cocked flirtatiously.
“Definitely,” Asami answered and allowed herself to be led once again by Korra’s firm handhold, not caring where it would lead as long as she never had to let go.