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What You Say Yes To

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Varrick asked to see her alone in his hotel. He met her just outside, holding a paper bag full of gourds and medicine bottles, his nose red from the cold and dead leaves blowing around his feet. He took her to a small table near the back and piled the medicine bottles high. Some of them spilled over the edge, forcing Asami to catch them before they fell onto the plush rug below.

“Quick, tell me which one will fix Zhu Li,” he said.

“Morphine and codeine and… antacids?” She should’ve guessed he’d be hopeless at picking something useful. “What’s wrong with her?”

“Stomachache! Won’t stop throwing up! It’s disgusting,” he said, pensive.

“Is she…” She couldn’t imagine them having a sex life, but she had to ask. “Is there any chance she might be… pregnant?”

“None at all! Children are bygone products of the past. We’re working on something that’s going to hit the market and completely wipe them out. You’ll love it. We’re calling it Tamagotcha.”

He handed her a small egg-shaped piece of metal with a cat dog face engraved on it. It didn’t do anything when she held it. She put it on the table between them.

“If you want, I can send for a doctor,” she said. “But if this isn’t about business, I’m going home.”

“It’s not so much as business as it is… a personal favor.”

“If it’s the doctor—”

He looked around the room and lowered his voice. “Do you remember my honeymoon?”

“Why would I?”

“You weren’t there?”

“No!”

“Whatever!” he said. “The point is, Zhu Li and I were gone for a while. We built a house together, launched new products, ate tons of those tiny little eggs with the crunchy shells, what do you call them…” Asami declined to provide the word. “We were gone for so long that I completely forgot about it during the hubbub. Back when I was getting my company on its feet again, I was working on a showstopper of a weapon, capable of—”

“Varrick, I know about the spirit weapon.”

“I had some of our early prototypes shipped to a locker in the North Pole. Out of sight, out of mind. You know.” He leaned in, uncomfortably close. “I need it taken care of. You and Korra are just the gals for it.”

“Why are you asking us?” Asami said. “You have the resources. You could do it yourself.”

“Eh. Not my style. What if it explodes? Only the Avatar can fix that. So, what do you say?”

“Even if she does it, what is she going to do with the weapons afterwards?”

“Avatar things.”

“You’re just trying to avoid taking responsibility for what you did!”

“Okay, okay,” Varrick said. “Fine. What if I told you I can take care of the Avatar’s Raiko problem?”

“If you mean arranging another kidnapping, then no thanks.”

“I mean money for the election,” he said. “I heard the Avatar’s tour around the Confederation this summer wasn’t a voluntary one. You do this and I can put someone more… agreeable to her policies.”

“And yours.”

“All I want are some tax breaks. And some contracts. You can trust me now. I have a do gooder’s heart.”

That made her pause. She wrapped her scarf around her neck and put on her coat. The election would be this spring. It was tempting. Zhu Li might prove to be a moderating force—or an enabling one. She could never figure out what was happening between them. “We’re not interested in that. But Future Industries has a need for better shipping contracts in the Fire Nation. If you can get us a three year contract at the same rates you have with the Sun Frogs, I’ll bring it to Korra. She might still refuse.”

“Tell you what,” Varrick said. “Just for considering it, I’ll talk with my guy and see if he can’t talk with whoever you’re using. Who are they?”

“Lava Occidental.”

“Hate those guys. But hey, your choice. And if you want the Sun Frogs, finish the job and I’ll get them to give you two years. Maybe ten, if Korra loses an arm or a leg.” They shook on it. He gave her a card. “This is my lawyer,” he said, sounding tentative. “Zhu Li told me to give this to people.”

 

It was not yet winter when they left Republic City. Trees red and yellow, smelly gingko fruits dropped into the grass, a delicate rot in the air. It had been just a few weeks since the mid-autumn festival.

Out on Yue Bay, the warm currents kept temperatures comparatively mild until they entered the final stretch of northern waters. Cold water rushed up the side of the ship and broke over the painted railing. Nights grew longer, dawn and twilight lingering then giving way, like the flare of a passing automobile light at night.

She and Asami spent a lot of time in their cramped cabin, reviewing their plans for Varrick’s job and making a game out of making love. How quiet could they be, or how long they could keep the room for themselves before Naga started whining for them, or until one of the sailors banged on their door asking if they’d collect Naga before she started roughhousing with the scuttlebutt again.

Their destination was just outside of the main Northern Water Tribe. The city was the same as always: magnificent, sparkling white, dense blue and green ice reaching for the clouds.

Eska and Desna met them at the dock. Korra went for a hug, then backed up, thinking better of it.

“What’s up with you two? Still sleeping in the bathtub?” she said to Desna.

“That’s only for when we’re away from home,” Desna said. “Otherwise we spend all night sitting up and gazing into each other’s eyes, seeking the void.” He looked at Asami briefly, then said, “She does not look like someone who stares into the void.”

“I hope not.” Time to move this conversation along. “Thanks for coming to meet us.”

“We’re here to warn you,” Eska said. “The Tribal Council wants to see you about your inheritance.”

“What do a bunch of old fogies from the North want to do with me? I’m from the South.”

“Take it up with them. One more thing.” She snapped her fingers. A man with an armful of scrolls wobbled over and deposited the pile into Korra’s arms. “You asked for our father’s spiritbending scrolls. We give them to you now.”

“Oh, wow. The White Lotus said you didn’t have any left,” Korra said, struggling to keep them in hand. Asami moved in to take a few.

“We don’t have any for strangers. You are not a stranger. Probably.”

“Are you sure you don’t need them anymore?”

“Father used to make us meditate and study his spiritbending,” Desna said. “We’re done with that now.”

Eska turned to the man who had carried the scrolls. “Light a lantern for us. I’ll let you be my footrest at dinner tonight.”

They were staying at the palace in the guest wing. A few other guests were staying at the palace, all of them affable yet somehow inadequate young men. Desna had already accepted an arranged marriage with an allied tribe, and was not plagued by dating woes; when Korra tried to congratulate him, he and Eska exchanged looks and said, “Avatar Korra isn’t getting married, is she?”

“She isn’t,” Eska said.

“You could never understand our woe.”

“We are beyond her comprehension.”

“Okay, okay,” Korra said. “I get it. I won’t say anything about it.”

It had been a long journey, so instead of heading straight to the warehouse, she and Asami went to the city instead. They called for a cab—elk horse drawn, since no automobiles or snowmobiles were allowed within city limits—to a bar. Most of the Northern Water Tribe was constructed in the old way: made of ice with some stone laid in for the roads, cold everywhere, the use of heat and fire carefully regulated. For all its beauty, there were few luxuries. Cold clamped down, day and night.

There were some modern amenities further out from the city, a tiny village of wood and stone. Korra had never felt the urge to go there before, but Asami had asked the cab driver to go there straight away. It was probending season in Republic City, and Asami had gotten the bug again. They went to each of the bars until they found a quiet place with a radio and several empty booths.

“Let me order,” Asami said. She went to the bar. “Whiskey on the rocks for me. What do you have that’s sweet that tastes good warm? Okay, we’ll get that. Can I also ask that you change the station to the probending tournament in Republic City? Hmm. Bad reception? Can I take a look?”

She returned with their drinks. In the background, old Shiro Shinobi announced plays to the radio audience. Waterbender from the Snorkeling Grumble Otters, knocked back to zone two. Now the firebender, pushed back by a disc. Earthbender was still in zone one, managed to knock the opposing earthbender and the firebender to their feet with the same disc. The Grumble Otter waterbender shot a jet of water into the opposing earthbender’s chest and…

“I swear, the twins get weirder every year,” Korra said, sipping from her drink.

“I think they’re… better than their father.”

“Leave it to me to monopolize the weird in-laws. Actually—I was wondering. Do you have any other family?”

“I don’t know,” Asami said. She didn’t seem too happy to think about it. She slid the ice around in her glass. “Dad’s family died during a cholera outbreak before he met Mom. My mother’s parents didn’t approve of Dad, so she broke off with them. They weren’t even invited to the funeral.”

“I’m sorry.” She took Asami’s hand and squeezed it.

“Thank you. It’d be nice if I knew, but I don’t feel as though I’ve lost anything by not knowing, either. Any other relatives of yours I should look out for?”

“Just future mini-Eskas and Desnas. You know, they’re planning on having a double wedding.”

Asami ran two fingers along Korra’s forearm, up to her shoulder, then to her chin. She brought her in for a kiss. Asami’s lips were slippery with fire, and burned the inside of her mouth. Air from deep inside her mouth smelled like alcohol, as though she had been drinking for a long time. The room had a musty smell from where the mold had grown in, from the melting ice. The table was sticky from spilt beer, hastily wiped away. From outside came the conflicting smell of fresh, cold wind and the refuse layered just beneath. It felt new, fresh; invigorating, in a way it didn’t feel when they were in Asami’s apartment or Korra’s room at Air Temple Island.

“Why don’t we ever do this at home?” Korra said.

“We work too much, that’s why.”

Asami pressed forward, her lips pushing against the hinge of her jaw, tongue licking out to her earlobe. She held onto Asami’s thigh, gripping onto her nylons just beneath her skirt. She felt teeth against her ear, and her hand went up further. She thought she could feel the heat coming from between Asami’s legs, if only she could move her hand higher—

Asami went stiff, and pulled away. “Yes?” she said, to someone not in the booth. Korra looked around, confused.

A man and a woman were standing at the table, watching.

“Oh, good, you’re done,” the woman said happily. “Is this a private session, Avatar Korra?”

What? I mean, yes! What kind of question is that?”

“I told you she wouldn’t want to be interrupted,” the man said to the woman. “We’re sorry for the confusion. We assumed you were picking people up while you were in the city and thought we’d make an approach. Is that…”

“It is! Ms. Sato, President of Future Industries! I read in the papers that she’s pregnant.” Asami glowered. “With ideas. And designs.”

“Thank you,” Asami said.

“What do you mean ‘picking people up?’” Korra said. “Everyone in Republic City knows I’m with Asami.”

“It’s my fault,” Asami said. “I’ve never put out an official statement.”

“Because you shouldn’t have to! It’s bad enough the press keeps jabbering on about what a lousy job they think I’m doing, I don’t need their commentary on this, too. And I’d never cheat on Asami—” She meant this honestly, but saying it out loud reminded her of their history with Mako and her sometimes incredible fuck ups. She found herself red in the face. “I don’t even know why you’d think that.”

“Everyone knows you had an affair with Kang in Baixiu City two years ago,” the woman said dreamily.

“I don’t know who or where that is,” Korra said flatly.

“You know, when you were sneaking around the Earth Empire, trying to take Kuvira down from the inside with Kaowei the bandit king…”

“I never did that, either. We’re leaving.” She got out of the booth and offered her hand to Asami. Asami drained her whiskey in a single go, took Korra’s hand, and kissed Korra on the mouth with purpose, going as far as to dip her down low enough that Korra’s ponytail brushed the top of the table. They asked the bartender to call for a cab, and left.

It was freezing outside, and they huddled together on the street corner while they waited. Korra wrung her hands, burning with indignation.

“You know I’d never cheat on you, right?” she said.

“Of course. I’m more interested in Kang and Kaowei the bandit king. Do you think they have stories about it somewhere?”

“Probably just tabloids. This isn’t even the first time someone’s asked me about Kang. I just thought he was someone’s neighbor or something.”

“When we get back home, let’s put together an official statement. To prevent these things from happening again.”

“Yeah. I’d like that.”

“Good,” Asami said. She took Korra’s hands in hers, and pressed a kiss to her lips. Ah, she had been hoping to make that announcement for a while now. Korra hadn’t realized.

“I need to prepare myself to be, ‘Future Industries President’s girlfriend, Korra from the Southern Water Tribe’ from now on.”

“Oh—you don’t know how many times I’ve been called ‘Avatar Korra’s lover’ in the spirit world! It’s about time you get a taste of it.”

The cab took too long to arrive. They ducked into another bar, drank some more, made out in the bathroom, snorting with laughter the whole time. They drank some more and caught a cab with another couple. She and Asami got out first, about a half mile from the palace, and snuck in through the back together.

And from there she must have fallen asleep. She woke up on the floor, sweating like mad and retching clear, slimy spit onto the floor. She barely kept her gag reflex down; waking up had kicked it in gear. Naga barked, just loud enough to wake Asami.

“Korra?” Asami said, groggy. The blankets rustled. Naga came over, nudged Korra with her nose. Korra got to her feet, paced a few steps. She opened the curtains to the balcony, which opened out to the ocean and harbor. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine—I’m fine,” she said, flexing her fingers individually, picking her knees up higher with each step. What was she doing? Testing them, she realized. “Must’ve had too much to drink. Bad dream.”

“Come back to bed. Do you want to talk about it?”

“I forgot it already.” She sat on the bed, not wanting to show her face just yet. Asami’s hand rested on her back. She slipped back into the covers. “Down, girl,” she said when Naga tried to climb in. Asami’s cheek and nose pressed against her back. She shut her eyes. Just on the edge of sleep, she heard something whispering her name, a terrible white sound that battered her and tugged at her with the force of great limbs until she wrenched herself free and escaped into sleep.

 

Their alarm was set to go off at the usual time. Up here, that meant they woke hours before sunrise. Korra left the room first to stretch and practice her forms. Asami read the newspapers, read reports from back home, and sent a few telegrams with her orders. The sky had barely changed color by the time she finished.

Korra returned. Asami got in her jumpsuit, picked up her toolkit, and headed out. They strolled through the main street of the city, picking up breakfast from the street vendors: grilled trout, shrimp skewers, salted sea-bird egg and congealed seal blood dumplings, fried whale skin with flatbread, and a type of moss tea.

“I’ll stick with plant teas from now on,” Asami said after taking a sip.

“Good idea,” Korra said. “You never get the mud taste out of your mouth. I’m glad we import all our tea in the South.”

“Why don’t they do it here?”

“Blah blah, modernization corrupts, blah blah, my uncle. Eska and Desna haven’t done much to change his policies.”

“Do you think they will?”

“Nah. No incentives to change, right? They’re following what he did before he went off the rails, but they don’t have a grand vision or a future plan. If I were them, I’d think about how to keep people from running off to the city and find a way to regulate the spirit portals more, but… it’s not really my place to go in and…” She broke off with a frustrated sigh. She was getting better at understanding global politics and navigating its troubles, but it never seemed to make her happy. Asami took Korra by the arm. She hoped the work Korra had done would make itself apparent soon.

Then they went to the warehouse, located further inland, away from the main city. The warehouses were surrounded by tall, metal fences topped with barbed wire. Each building, too, was made of metal and concrete, and the ice around the warehousing complex had cracked from the weight. Guards in big, blue coats went around the complex repairing the ice. No fewer than four spotlights concentrated on them when she and Korra approached the fence. At least Varrick had put the prototypes somewhere safe.

They were escorted to the main gates and asked to tender identification. Asami had her papers, but Korra had to puff fire and blast air into the sky. They were brought to a set of warehouses built into a cave, then left alone. There were three different prototypes taking up a single massive warehouse each. They agreed to start with the one furthest from the cave’s entrance.

The prototype itself was still in the massive crate it had come in. The original package was twice as tall as either of them, and at least twenty feet long. Once they finished unpacking, the weapon was still a foot taller than Asami, and some ten feet long, not counting the tapering rear parts. She popped the panel over the maintenance area, peeking cautiously. The spirit vine was still in the prototype, but had been disconnected and the chamber flooded with some kind of liquid. Asami removed it gingerly, and gave it to Korra.

“You don’t have to stay,” Asami said.

“I like helping you work,” Korra said. She held the battery against the light, then set it on the ground carefully. She looked at the innards and made a face. “Wow. I don’t get any of this.”

“Hopefully you won’t find yourself staring into the barrel of too many of these babies.”

“Look at you, talking like gunslinger!”

Asami took out the notes Varrick gave her, and slowly disconnected the circuitry.

“Is this even safe?” Korra said. “Just stashing a couple of giant super weapons in the North Pole?”

“Probably. Varrick was too lazy to take it apart, and everyone else was too scared to try. The oil in here must be to short out the battery. I’m still not taking any risks, though. Varrick said these are made of steel, not platinum. Can you remove the outer layers for me? I want to see how he built this.”

She liked watching Korra bend metal the most, for selfish reasons. It was something they could do together, and it was cute watching Korra wiggle her fingers to remove screws. And it was a lot easier to have Korra screw in a nut in a hard to reach place than for her to stick her entire arm in and bang the wrench around willy nilly.

They took the case apart. Korra compressed the metal to a cube and set it aside without a blink. Asami took a good look at the recoil adapter, taking notes, occasionally talking out loud or carrying on conversation with Korra. She could see Baatar Jr.’s work in this, too: the impeccable wiring and soldering, the Zaofu high-power battery system, adapted for use with the spirit vine, the circuit board, which had been made by an eastern OEM frequently used by Zaofu engineers. She ran her hand along the cannon barrel, admiring it. Then she and Korra disassembled it and compacted the metal to multiple large cubes. She’d ship it back to Varrick later, she decided. He’d appreciate the gesture.

The next step was to disable the spirit vine battery. The liquid holding the vine had frozen from the cold, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t still volatile. She and Korra tried dismantling it; then Korra, frustrated, used some metal to cut a hole through the glass, melted the ice, and yanked the spirit vine out with her bare hands.

They were making good time. If they kept at this pace, they’d have the second done tomorrow, and the third the day after.

They went to start work in the second warehouse. They knew there was something wrong when they entered the room: the room was warm, and mud pressed upward from the cracks in the floor. They were quick to unpack the prototype. Inside the box were hundreds of small spirits, barely more than balls of light.

“What are you guys doing here?” Korra said. “Okay. You can’t be here. I know you’ve been here for a while, but I’m telling you, I’m the Avatar and I’m saying you can’t be here. This thing is really dangerous. What do you mean, you can’t move to the other one anymore? What happened to the other weapon? Are you kidding me?” She brushed a few motes off the weapon and turned to Asami. “So, guess what.”

“Bad news?” Asami said, trying to play it light; she knew Korra hadn’t gotten much sleep.

“They’re saying a spirit stole the other weapon.”

What?”

“Right. I’m thinking—I guess we should—”

“Remove the battery first,” Asami said. “We can disassemble it later. Shoo! Sorry,” she said to the unhappy spirits. She went over to the panel and popped it open. Like the other weapon, the battery cell had been disconnected and filled with liquid; unlike the other one, spirits had used their bodies to reconnect the spirit vine to the rest of the weapon, and another set of spirits kept the temperature up to keep the liquid from freezing, and even more spirits were crowded inside the liquid, zipping around the vine.

The vine itself seemed to be doing well in the liquid. She flipped through Varrick’s notes again. Early prototypes used electroconductive solution to enhance output… later prototypes did not use this due to the solution enhancing the destructive potential beyond even Varrick’s barely existent safety tolerances? She tried to power down the prototype, but none of the buttons did Varrick said they would. She’d have to yank the battery out now, but she didn’t want to yank it out while it was still live. “Korra, can you freeze the liquid in here?”

“Let me get the spirits out first… Yes, I’m serious, you really can’t stay. Okay, right… I get that. But you need to understand, if this bomb goes off, you’re going to kill a lot of people, maybe even destroy the spirit portal up here, too. Come on, I’ll give you guys a lift to the town. From there, you can… I don’t know, find a nice light bulb. Well, it’s better than getting blown up!” She opened up her coat. Spirits jumped into her coat, gloves, and hood until she puffed up as though she was wearing a down coat. Once they were all stuffed inside, she froze the liquid and Asami moved in to remove the battery. This one was easier to open up and disable, no glass cutting required.

“I look like a total idiot,” Korra said, trying to close her coat without dropping the spirits. “No, I’m not saying you look like an idiot… Just give me enough time to check on the last prototype! Hey! Asami, this spirit here said my hair looks dumb. What do you think?”

“You have a shaggy chic thing going for you right now. I like it. It’s cute.” It had recently gotten long enough for Korra to pull it back in a bristly ponytail at the top of her head, although she had let it down today. She normally did that when she didn’t want to be recognized, or when she wanted to be left alone.

They went to the third warehouse. Korra knocked on the side of the crate, listening.

“It’s still in there,” she said. “I thought you guys said it was gone.”

“Let’s see,” Asami said. They unpacked it. Asami popped the panel. Just as she feared. The spirit vine was gone. “I don’t understand. Who could have done it? It doesn’t look like anyone was here before us.”

“Not a person,” Korra said. “A spirit must have done it. One of you guys must have seen it, right? You mentioned that you were using both prototypes. Did you get a look at who took it? Yeah. Yanhan? Okay. Where can we find it? Him? Okay. Him. Where can we find him? Are you sure? All right.” She looked to Asami. “Mind if we take a quick detour to the spirit portal? I need to drop these guys off.”

“Are we going to take a trip?” Asami said. She had promised the chief engineer that she’d send a message before disappearing to the spirit world again.

“Nah. Just a drop off. I don’t want to leave these guys in the cold for too long… yeah, yeah, I get it, I’m displacing you. You guys should have thought better of living inside a bomb.”

They left the warehouse complex, drove out to the spirit portal, and returned to the palace nearly straight away. It was dark and moonless, and keeping with Eska and Desna’s strange tastes, the bare minimum number of lamps had been lit inside the palace. Korra lit a fire in her hands as they navigated back to their room, walking a step ahead of Asami.

“What are you going to do about this Yanhan?” Asami said.

“They told me how to find him. We can pick him up tomorrow. Weren’t you listening?”

“I couldn’t hear them.”

“You couldn’t?” Korra stopped, then kept going. “I noticed that about the Northern Water Tribe. The smaller ones don’t even bother making mouths, they just beam it straight into my head. I think. You don’t think I’m just talking to myself, right?”

“Definitely not,” Asami said. “Hey—are you tired? Do you want me to get dinner from the kitchen?”

“Dinner! I forgot all about dinner. Let me go with you.”

They picked up their trays of food from the kitchen and ate in bed. It wasn’t even that late when they finished, just past eight o’clock. Asami caught up on business from home, while Korra took Naga out and about town.

“Do you want to head into town?” Asami said when Korra came back an hour and a half later. She still remembered the excitement they had felt, kissing in a bar in a new city, the pressure of Korra’s hand against her inner thigh.

“Okay,” Korra said. “Sure. Why not?”

They went to a bar by the docks. Asami won a few games of pool, then cards, then darts, while Korra arm-wrestled the sailors and carried a few on her back and drank an ill-advised amount. It was a good time, winning and losing money, watching her girlfriend win contests of strengths, knowing that Korra was showing off for her, to advertise her strength.

They returned to the palace past midnight. Korra was frisky on their way back, her hands never leaving Asami, constantly seeking to get beneath her coat and clothes, but once they got back to their room, she stopped.

“What if Naga wakes up?” Korra said. Naga was asleep by the balcony door.

“She’s a grown polar bear dog. She can take it.”

She ate Korra out, relishing the heat, the way she could feel everything against her tongue and mouth, the physical weight of Korra’s sexual desire for her, right against her face. And she loved the way Korra came against her mouth, the delicate yet wild twitching against her tongue, the spasms in Korra’s powerful, brown thighs.

She stripped out of her clothes, knelt over Korra’s stomach, and ground down on it, warming up. She swatted away Korra’s hands a few times before grabbing them by the wrists and pinning them above Korra’s head. She lifted her hips up and started touching herself with her free hand, letting out a few admirably fake moans for effect.

“Oh, please—come on! How is this fair?” she said, squirming beneath Asami, trying to get free.

“It isn’t,” Asami said. She hadn’t let go of Korra’s wrists. She knew it wouldn’t take much for Korra to break her grip, and thinking of Korra strapping up, pinning her down, and taking her from behind made her wet—but seeing Korra’s face flushed from her recent orgasm, hands clenching, desperately trying to listen, desperately wanting to disobey, was bringing her to the edge even faster.

She let go so she could grab Korra by the ponytail and bring her face to her breasts. Korra got one hand around Asami’s waist, fingers drawing powerful lines down her back, making her buck and fall down to one elbow. Korra got her leg around Asami’s hip, flipped her over, and kissed her wrist.

“Let me,” she said. “Come on, please, I want to. Let me feel you.”

“I can’t resist it when you ask me nicely.” She felt Korra’s smile against the soft crook of her elbow. Felt Korra rest her hand just above her pubic mound. She kissed Korra, tilted her hips up. She let herself be carried for a few thrusts, then said, “I packed a strap-on.”

“Oh, fuck,” Korra said. She kissed Asami, then scrambled off the bed and to the suitcases. A minute passed, then another. “Why do you always bring so much stuff?” she said, tossing clothes out. “It’s im… no—no, Naga… go back to sleep…” Naga whimpered for attention, then slouched back to her corner of the room and gave both of them a dirty look.

Asami put her face in the sheets to keep herself from laughing. She beckoned Korra back to bed. They covered themselves in the blankets, trading heated kisses, giggling and speculating on whether Naga might try to join them in bed. Korra got her hands between Asami’s legs, working with straightforward, uncomplicated motions, drawing out one fast orgasm, backing off, then going straight back, steady and tireless.

The heat was nearly unbearable: her breath felt narrow, her skin still flushed from the alcohol, every movement a fight against the weight of the blankets. But she didn’t want to break out of the sheets, either. It felt part of the game, this difficult pleasure she was subjecting herself to. When she came again, she kicked off the blanket and drew in long, full-lunged breaths that felt nearly as good as coming.

“That was so hard,” Asami said, still dizzy from the experience. “I love you and you’re amazing, but why did we do that?”

“Sex contest? We have to stop doing that. I’m dying.”

They showered to cool down, then went on a brisk walk through the palace. They hid from guards behind pillars of ice and in the deep shadows spilling behind furniture and doors. They made it down to the lobby before returning to their room and sleeping.

 

It was still dark when she sensed Korra leaping out of bed. Asami was out of bed a second later.

“Who’s there?” Korra said. “Where are you? What? What is it?”

Same thing as the night before: too much to drink, a bad dream. Korra pacing, rolling her shoulders, shifting her weight from hip to hip, trying to hide her fear of another bodily breakdown. Coming back to bed, claiming she couldn’t remember anything.

Just as Asami began to fall asleep, Korra began talking again. Who are you? What do you want? Stop—stop. What are you doing? But no matter how hard Asami tried to wake her, she stayed asleep, fingers tight on the sheets, eyelids fluttering fast, as though they were trying to escape.