The sun was hot, the air was humid, and the breeze was soft but lovely. The sounds of laughter and moving water were balm. No telephones, no press, and no demanding personal assistants to bother anyone here.
This resort hadn’t been Asami’s first choice, but Korra had immediately picked out this family-friendly resort versus the adult ones that were Asami’s first choices. Right then, Korra was probably swimming around in one of the pools, playing with as many kids as she could find and having the time of her life. Asami couldn’t begrudge the choice. The sun was just as hot, the shade was just as warm, and her drink was just as cold and sweet as at any of the other resorts she would have preferred.
Someone sank into the lounge next to her. Asami opened one eye and smiled at Mako, who was painfully red after a few days in the sun. “Sunburn better?”
“No, but I’ve had enough to drink it’s stopped hurting. June and Opal took a car to the market to look around. Korra and Bolin are doing cannonballs off the side of the pool.” He draped a wet towel over his eyes and leaned back in his chair, heaving a sigh of contentment.
“Of course they are.”
Korra deserved this time off. She would be returning to Republic City to testify at the first hearing for Cabbage Corp’s litigation about the legality of spirit vine research, and they’d left on the shocking news that the recently elected frighteningly militaristic fascist leader of Ba Sing Se had turned over Suntoq—less whole than he’d been when he’d left Republic City—to the United Republic. He’d only asked for a private meeting with Korra in exchange. They all knew this favor wasn’t free.
On more personal matters, Korra hadn’t mentioned anything about her thoughts about Suyin, though Asami could see no end to that situation without Korra reconciling with Suyin. She forgave Zaheer of all people; Suyin’s major fault was that she had farther to fall.
Even with Suntoq soon to be tried, Raiko was done. Korra's public statement than she didn’t think he was at fault for Kuvira and Zaheer’s release had done little to sway the public. Asami had already sent in her absentee vote, but she wondered if she was letting her emotions cloud her logic by voting for Raiko's more liberal opponent. Raiko had advanced what would probably be the most radical bill in the United Republic’s history in the ultimate bid for repeat presidency, but his illicit ties to Suntoq had sunk him deep.
Justice? Asami wasn’t sure what the objective term was, but the vindictive part of her was pleased he was gone.
Asami’s negative train of thought was interrupted briefly by a resort staff member, who refreshed their waters and took orders for their cocktails. He was back in less than five minutes with a dozen drinks balanced on his tray. He set two on the table between Mako and Asami’s lounger before moving on to the next guest.
“How was the South?” Mako asked when theirs drinks were nearly finished. Asami stirred, marked her place in her book, and gave him her attention.
“Cold. Korra’s parents are so kind. We all went out to the Bear Tribe to visit Senna’s father.” Privately, Asami thought Korra would have died happy there, surrounded by her extended family. It had been a good trip, capped off when Korra sat in the whaling boat. Asami had been roped in to help flense the whale, and that had been an arduous process. She’d been an outsider, but everyone was kind in a gentle teasing way. They’d treated her like a child; she’d needed the kid gloves in that environment. There was no doubt in her mind they would be back as often as feasible.
“I always assumed Tonraq would crush me, but he just shook my hand.” Mako cleared his throat, and in an obviously rehearsed speech, said, “Thank you for inviting us here. You didn’t have to rent the whole cabin.”
After all this time, he was still embarrassed by her wealth. “I rented the cabana because I knew Korra would like it, and I wanted the beach access. The two extra bedrooms were just a coincidence. We both are happy to have you all.”
“All the same." He cleared his throat. "I’m surprised you were able to get a vacation right now.”
She had never needed a vacation more badly than right now. Getting out of that tower was refreshing, and letting go of the stress of her day-to-day revitalized her. In many ways, the trip had reset her mental state too. She had rarely thought of work, and stress melted from her shoulders. She realized a few days into the trip that she wasn’t just acting hopeful for Korra’s sake, she felt it too. Kuvira’s attack was no more than a bump in their road. “Delegation, Mako. The turbine project is well underway. We have two working units currently. I just wish we’d predicted their effect on the bird population.”
“Are people still protesting that?”
“Yes. No doubt Cabbage Corp staged the protests. It’s insignificant at this stage.” An insignificant headache, at least. The turbines worked beautifully, producing clean energy at little cost…except for increasing the rate of bird deaths. There was little way around it now. Asami had taken her hands off that project. Someone else could deal with it, at least until she got back.
Heavy, wet steps approached, and Korra dripped cool water all over Asami and her book as she leaned over to grab a towel. Asami shot her a glare beneath her hat. That wasn’t an accident, not with as good a waterbender as Korra was. She’d been asking Asami to get in the pool with her so this was no doubt a good-natured protest.
“Hey,” Korra greeted amicably as ever, sitting down next to Asami’s legs. She took a heavy swallow of Asami’s water, bent water from her hair and suit, and pulled on a shirt and shorts. “Zuko’s here with Druk. I’m going to fly to Capital City with him. Don’t worry if I don’t come back tonight.”
She pressed a light kiss to Asami’s mouth and was gone before Asami could form a response.
Shouts rose up as a dragon winged overhead a moment later, but Asami couldn’t enjoy the sight. She’d made reservations that night—at Korra’s request—to have dinner on a private glass-bottomed yacht. It was going to be their date night: romantic, dressed-up, and sharing their meal in solitude. Korra had forgotten. Or she’d purposefully ignored it.
Asami had planned to ask Korra to move in with her that night. Damn.
It was hard stay righteously angry when Korra cancelled for Avatar duties, and this definitely fell in that category. How could Asami be petty enough to be so disappointed that Korra was visiting with the Fire Lord’s family? There would be other times and other opportunities.
Six hours after cancelling their reservation and sitting brooding by the pool, Asami felt only a little better. When the sun began to set, she returned to the cabana where her friends had music on and were dancing. She bathed and pulled on a loose wrap to wander down by the beach. She was lonely despite her friends, annoyed with herself, and she hoped that Korra had only been called away for a visit and not a dire emergency. Korra needed this vacation as much as she did.
Eventually, footsteps swished behind her. She preempted the kind intervention. “I’ll come up in a little bit.”
“Actually, I thought we maybe could walk a little farther down the beach and eat.”
Asami turned around, surprised to see Korra standing behind her. She wore the same clothes as that morning, but there was a basket in one of her hands. Her smile was rueful. When Asami got up to walk beside her, she admitted, “I remembered our reservations after we left.”
“It’s not important.”
“Yes, it was. This vacation was supposed to be about us.”
That was really all Asami had needed. She let go of her disappointment and felt contrite for it. “It is. You’re the Avatar, Korra. Sometimes things are more important than me.”
“Maybe if I was only the Avatar, but I’m not. I’m Korra too, and I love you.” Korra shook her head and nodded down the beach. “Down there.”
Someone had bent seats in the sand. Korra set out dinner—a light affair of fruits and vegetables, hard cheese, and dry bread. They shared fruit-flavored water and didn’t speak much. Asami abandoned her seat across from Korra to settle next to her. Korra wrapped an arm around her waist.
“I screwed up. I let Avatar override girlfriend, and that wasn’t fair, not with the way we set aside time for this vacation, the way you gave up your time to go home with me too—”
“It isn’t a competition, Korra. I did it because I love you.”
“And I know I screwed up today because I love you. And I’m going to keep screwing up. You said once that messing up is part of being together. Well, I’ve realized apologizing is too. I’m sorry.”
Asami pulled Korra to her for a long hug, hoping to erase the regret on Korra’s beautiful face. The emotion behind her eyes and voice was real. “It’s okay. I’m really okay.”
“Fixing it is just as important. I came back, and next time, I’ll stop to remember our plans.”
“Korra, I love you. That’s the important thing.”
Korra fumbled in her pocket and withdrew an object. Asami stared at it, her brain taking a leap in logic, but it was only a lump of metal.
Korra pinched a bit of metal between her fingertips before she moved it between her palms and began to bend it. “I thought a lot about the material. It seemed like maybe I should use something I couldn’t bend…to signify that I couldn’t choose to remove it or change it. But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like I should use something I could bend.
“Because that’s what a relationship is, right? I didn’t choose to love you, but I did choose to be with you and to work at what’s between us. I can’t promise that you won’t want to take it off or change it or that I won’t be able to change it by the nature of how we interact, but I guess that’s the point.
“After all, we started as rivals, became friends, and then became lovers.”
Korra’s fingertips moved gracefully, and a ring-like form took shape. She twisted her wrists, and the metal twined around itself like a braid. Korra met Asami’s gaze and held the ring up with a half-smile. Everything in Asami froze as she looked between the ring and Korra.
“Do you want to change again? To be wives?”
Asami stared at the ring, her brain going back over Korra’s speech. That Korra would ask her for this commitment... Words failed her, even the easy one. She could only nod shakily as her eyes filled with tears, and she watched as Korra's eyes filled too. Korra's smile was tentatively hopeful, and then it bloomed into a grin as she pressed the ring onto Asami's finger. Asami pulled Korra close, and they hugged tightly. This woman was everything to her. Korra sighed and relaxed against her. Asami couldn’t help but laugh. “I feel so stupid.”
“I was nervous about asking you to move in with me!”
“Aren’t I already?” Korra asked in apparent perplexity. “You bought the townhouse for both of us. Or do I need to pay rent?”
“No, Korra. No rent. Just stay with me forever.” She brushed hair from Korra’s face. “Why did you ask now?”
“Well, you’re marrying me. Seems like the best time to ask is after I screw up.” She hesitated. “I wasn’t sure it would be fair to ask when we were in the South. I didn’t want you to feel pressured because we were with my family.”
“No pressure. I would have said ‘yes’ and thanked you for it.” Asami bit her lip. “But thank you for thinking of me.”
Korra’s smile was shy. “Does this mean I’m a Republic City citizen?”
“It will, yes. And that means you’re taking your driver’s test.”
Korra laughed. “I was thinking about free education.”
Their quiet after that was comfortable, punctuated by the gentle sounds of the ocean. They ate some of the dessert that Korra packed, and Asami got used to the feel of the ring that circled her finger. There were many worries to have: how the world would receive this news, how they could continue to carve a life together, and more banal concerns about when, where, and how the wedding would occur. Asami could find no urgency in her to borrow trouble, not when she was certain Korra would see it all through with her.
She smiled at that thought and accepted a sip of wine from straight from the bottle; Korra had forgotten glasses and that alone was perfect. Asami snuggled closer and said, “There is one thing I don’t ever want to change.”
“What’s that?” Korra asked, turning to kiss her neck.
“Being your best friend.”
Korra’s smile was all the agreement Asami needed.