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Common Ground

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“We’ll have to attack in a swarm to try to keep you guys safe in the hummingbird suits. It looks like they’re our only hope.” Korra speaks with confidence but inside she feels worry wash over her, chilling her insides.

“Well, we better get to work then. I’ll have to grab some supplies from down the hall,” Asami says, immediately moving into action.

Zhu-Li follows after her. “I’ll assist you.”

Korra watches as everyone slowly begins to disperse. Varrick is checking the hydraulics one last time on one of the hummingbird mechas. Hiroshi, for his part, has grabbed his work gloves and is already inspecting the welding torches on the forearms of the other mecha suit, muttering quietly to himself. Lin is standing close by, watching his every move even as she listens in on the conversation the rest of the group is having about strategies for distracting Kuvira. Korra looks in the direction that Asami just left in and then back over to Hiroshi, brow furrowed as she debates with herself internally.  Her lips press into a thin line as she steps forward.

“Lin, can we have a minute?” she says as her head tilts towards her charge. Hiroshi does not look up, though he does stop muttering to himself.

Lin’s eyes flicker briefly to Hiroshi before she nods to Korra and immediately starts to step away, looking disinterested.

“Sure, kid,” replies the chief, walking off in the other direction to discuss tactics with the rest of the crew. Korra eyes come to briefly rest on the group standing nearby. They’re not exactly alone and she doesn’t have much time before Asami and Zhu-Li return to take Hiroshi’s much needed attention back to the task at hand. It’s now or never.

Even so, Korra hesitates. She feels a fierce need to protect Asami. While she knows Hiroshi’s assistance is necessary for the success of the mission, she can’t help but question his motives. But I trust Asami. She thinks to herself. I trust her judgement. If she believes he can be trusted, that should be good enough for me. This is the thought that made Korra agree in the first place when Lin brought the former terrorist forward. Still, she can’t stop the energy that bursts forth from her chest and digs deep into her muscles, urging her to protect her best friend and the woman she loves.

But even as protective, angry words dance at the tip of her tongue, ready to strike Hiroshi, Asami’s words run through the back of her mind with just as much force. You don’t get to disappear for three years and then act like you know what’s best for me! Maybe she doesn’t have the right to interfere with Asami’s personal life. After all, isn’t she just as guilty of hurting Asami in her own right? But that’s different, she reassures herself even as the guilt seeps into her stomach. I never meant to hurt Asami and I certainly never tried to kill her!

As her internal debate carries on, Korra watches Hiroshi continue his inspection of the suit. It strikes her just how much of her technical prowess Asami gets from her father. The old man’s hands tremor slightly – from age or poor health, she isn’t sure – but they move with the same grace and dexterity as the woman who once tinkered with Korra’s wheelchair and gently guided her through the world for the first few weeks of recovery three years ago. When he examines something of interest, Korra sees the familiar twinkle in his eye followed by a crease in his brow. While Hiroshi’s eyes are not as bright and the lines that run across his forehead are much deeper than any on Asami’s face, Korra can’t help but think back to the time her and Asami were captured by the Earth Queen’s forces. She recalls roasting in the hot desert sun, watching with admiration and awe as Asami reassembled the pieces of a wrecked Cabbage Corp. airship and transformed them into their one-way ticket back to the oasis.

“Avatar Korra, did you wish to speak with me? Or merely gain a lesson in mechanics?” When Hiroshi’s voice knocks Korra out of her reverie, his voice is light and not at all demanding. He has an eyebrow cocked and he looks at her with interest. “I’m sure you could learn much more from my daughter, if it’s the latter.”

Korra shifts her weight to one leg, sizing the old man up as she chooses her words carefully.

“What’s your game?” Korra asks brusquely while folding her arms across her chest. Perhaps finally recognizing the direction the conversation is going, Hiroshi halts his ministrations with machine and gives the Avatar his full attention.

“As I said, I love Republic City,” he states plainly, wiping his greasy hands on a towel. Korra remains silent, waiting expectantly, and so he continues. “And I love my daughter.”

Korra frowns and visibly bristles at this declaration. “You’ll excuse me if I don’t take that to heart, all things considered.” Korra tries to control her temper, but her words still come out harsh and unforgiving. She manages to keep her voice low enough that fortunately, no one else seems to notice their conversation. Hiroshi does not rise to her anger but instead, seems to deflate slightly.

“I can never erase the damage I have done to Asami, to our family,” he says with regret in his voice. He puts the rag down and slowly removes his gloves. “It may be hard for you to understand, but when you lose someone you love, the pain of it can blind you. You can become someone you don’t even recognize…”

As Hiroshi pauses and looks away for a moment, Korra is hit by his words. They throw her back to Laghima’s peak as Zaheer’s whirlwind took her father over the edge, away from her for what she thought would be forever. She thinks about the despair that welled up inside of her – how she felt helpless as she heard him cry out her name. Korra remembers how the hurt sunk deep into her bones even as she was bound and poisoned by the Red Lotus; how the feeling set aflame within her belly as a vicious rage, boiling over as she tore herself free and took off after Zaheer, determined to make him pay for the death of her father.

Her father, of course, had not died that day, but she still remembers the pain of loss acutely. Looking at Hiroshi now, Korra feels empathy crack at her cold distrust of him. She takes a deep breath and her words come out more evenly this time.

“Look, I trust Asami. And she seems to trust you. But the last time you both got into mecha suits together, you tried to kill her,” Korra sees a flash of pain pass through Hiroshi’s eyes as he finally meets her gaze. She steps forward, unwavering. “This mission will be extremely dangerous as it is. I know Asami is capable – she’s brilliant. But I need to know that she will be flying with someone who has her back.”

Hiroshi nods, a small smile forming despite the grim conversation. He folds his arms and tilts his head slightly as he eyes Korra thoughtfully. His hand comes up to meet his chin. I guess that must be a Sato thing, too, Korra muses.

“You really do care for her, I see,” he says simply. Korra, while caught off-guard by the sudden change in topic, does not hesitate to nod in reply. She maintains eye contact with Asami’s father, determination rippling through her body as she stands across from Hiroshi Sato, unwilling to back down until she receives a satisfactory answer. While his expression is difficult to read, soon his wrinkled features begin to relax. “Good.” He turns away to look out across the mostly demolished city. Korra takes another step forward, resisting the urge to turn him back around and shake him, demanding that he take her concerns seriously.

“I thought my legacy on this city would be helping to purge it of all benders and building a better future for my daughter,” he says finally. Korra resists the urge to recoil or airbend him out the window. “But I have long since realized that Asami is that legacy. She has rebuilt this city in ways I never could have dreamed. Truthfully, in some ways I may never be able to truly understand,” as Hiroshi speaks, he turns back to look at Korra, arms folded behind him.

“You have my word, Avatar Korra, that I will do everything in my power to keep Asami safe for as long as I live and breathe.”

Korra’s sea blue eyes scan his face and as she searches for any indication that he may be lying, the tension in her body finally begins to dissipate. She nods, finally satisfied with his answer.

“Good.” Korra unfolds her arms and shifts her weight again. “I… guess I should let you get back to it, then,” she says, feeling slightly unsure of herself now that the energy in her body is slightly more settled, at least for now. She wasn’t sure what she was expected when she decided to come over here but somehow the whole conversation had left Korra feeling a little underwhelmed. As she turns to leave, Hiroshi speaks once more.

“I know you’ve been a part of her inspiration for repairing the city the way she has. My daughter spoke very highly of you the few times she visited me.”

Korra freezes at his words, flushing but her curiosity piqued. She quickly turns around to face Hiroshi again. “Really? What did she-”

“Hey… is everything alright?” Asami’s voice cuts in from behind Korra and she pivots once more to greet her. The engineer’s voice is hesitant, an eyebrow cocked in a questioning and perhaps nervous tone. Korra feels a new wave of guilt seize her insides. She’s just beginning to worry if she has crossed a line when Hiroshi speaks.

“Yes, everything is just fine. Avatar Korra was just apprising me of the layout of Kuvira’s mecha suit. She is… a formidable strategist.”

Hiroshi’s subtle praise takes Korra aback and as she looks at him once more, she sees a familiar gentleness in his eyes as he looks to his daughter. It’s the very same gentleness she feels whenever she is in Asami’s presence; the kind of gentleness that comes when someone is so precious to you, you simply can’t bear to lose them. Remembering herself, Korra recovers quickly and turns to Asami again.

“Yeah, everything is great.” Asami’s expression slowly fades to relief but the puzzled look doesn’t leave her eyes even as a small smile pulls at her mouth.

“Okay, good. I have the supplies. We should get started…”

“I’ll leave you two to it, then,” Korra says with a brief touch to Asami’s shoulder and a nod to Hiroshi. Korra walks away feeling like a small weight has been lifted from her shoulders.

She may never understand what Hiroshi has done. She may never completely trust him. But she trusts Asami. And she trusts that Hiroshi won’t let any harm come to her today. And for Korra, that’s enough.