"Korra." Asami's whisper broke her from her slumber and Korra let out an audible groan before burying her face into her pillow.
"No." She pulled the blankets up over her head. "S'too early, Sami."
She could hear her wife laughing beside her. "It is not, you baby. It's nearly seven and Mika and I want to go eat breakfast."
Smacking her lips, Korra rolled over onto her back with bleary eyes to see Asami and Mika staring down at her. They were both still in the bed, but Mika was standing over Asami's back, while Asami had propped up on an elbow to look at her.
"Don't you guys realize how evil morning is?"
"Food!" Mika said while bouncing on the bed. "I fell sleep before cake, so I want food!"
Korra found herself smiling at the adorable girl clinging to Asami's shoulder. The last month had been spent with the three of them learning one another and sharing a bed. To say they'd grown close would be an understatement. Korra had caught herself on more than once occasion thinking about their future with Mika and how much she wanted the little girl to be a part of that.
Despite the fact that Korra had no idea what being a real parent entailed, she was caught up in the idea of learning. Of course, that was before Zaheer had attacked her and stripped her bending away, but even that hadn't deterred her from smiling every morning she woke up with her new family.
As Mika leaned over Asami's shoulder, Korra made eye contact with her wife and silently hoped she could get her point across with a look. She wanted to tell Mika that they were free to adopt her and ask if she would be okay with that.
The soft smile Asami offered seemed to confirm that she knew what Korra was thinking.
"Okay." Asami turned and grabbed the little girl around the waist. Mika squealed with delight as she was sat down between Korra and Asami. "We want to talk to you about something, Mika."
"Oh." She looked between the both of them worriedly. "I didn't…I didn't steal the…the glider stick yesterday…Ikki…Ikki said I could play with it."
Korra frowned. "Well Ikki probably shouldn't have done that," she muttered and noted the understanding look on Asami's face. "But that's not what we want to talk about. You're not in any trouble or anything." She poked Mika in the stomach just a make her giggle again. "Yesterday Lin told me that Asami and I could, if you wanted, adopt you and you could be a permanent part of our family."
Mika's face was unreadable. She stared at Korra for a moment as the anxiety built up. The truth was, Korra had never thought that Mika might say no. She had just assumed it'd be the right thing to ask her. Let her make a choice and have some control over her life.
If she said no Korra was fairly certain her heart would break.
"Really?" Mika asked quietly as she glanced up at Asami, who only smiled brighter.
"Yeah, we can make it official and then you can live with us."
Mika frowned. "Here on the island? Why don't we stay at the other place anymore? It had a swimming pool."
"Well, no, that was just a bathtub," Asami corrected with a chuckle.
"It's a big bathtub!"
Korra laughed. "That's because Asami would only get the apartment with the giant bathtub because she's rich and snobby."
"Hey!" Asami reached over and swatted Korra's arm which only made her laugh more. "This from Mrs. I-Can't-Meditate-On-This-Tiny-Balcony. I have never once seen you meditating on there, just standing in your underwear and watching our neighbors."
"Look," Korra glared with a threatening smirk, "We are getting off topic here." She picked up Mika and rolled onto her back, placing the girl on her stomach. "It's your call Mika, you want to keep hanging out with her majesty and me?"
Asami groaned through a chuckle before shifting so that she was on her knees on the bed. She reached out and gently ran a hand through Mika's hair which made the girl smile immediately.
"I don't wanna go anywhere else," Mika said and Korra felt her heart swell. She sat up and wrapped her up in her arms and adored the sound of Mika squealing with delight in her ears.
Asami hugged them both and Korra could hear her sniffling as Mika's tiny arms looped around her neck.
They held each other for a few moments before Asami shifted a bit and whispered into Mika's ear.
The only word Korra picked up was 'ticklish' and Mika nodded quickly as she slipped out of Korra's arms.
"What are you doing?" Korra raised a cautious brow at Asami who smiled deviously at her.
She then scooted in closer to Korra who pulled back a bit. "Her majesty was it?"
Mika pushed up clumsily to her feet on the bed and could barely contain her giggles as they both pressed in on Korra.
"Now!" Mika cried and Korra was attacked by her two girls.
Kuvira opened her eyes slowly when she heard the knocking on the door. Her head was throbbing, and breathing was still proving difficult with whatever had settled into her lungs. She felt worse today than the days before, and she knew the knocking belonged to Su.
"Come in." She coughed, knowing Su likely already had the key in the door.
When the door opened, Kuvira swallowed thickly and her throat burned. She pushed herself up to a seated position and looked over to see Su smiling down at her.
"Still sick huh?" Kuvira nodded slightly. "Okay, well, it took a little convincing but Kya has agreed to give you some time in the healing pool today. Lin's going to be there and so am I so everything should go fine."
"I don't need it," Kuvira insisted when Su sat next to her.
She started to say more, but began coughing again. When she finished, she felt Su press the back of her wrist to Kuvira's forehead for a few moments and sigh.
"You're burning up. The fever is new."
"It'll wear off," Kuvira muttered hoarsely. She didn't need to be fretted over, and she felt like Kya had better things to do with her time. "I just need to sleep it off."
Su gave soft smile. "Kuvira, I understand that you don't want any special treatment, but, well..." She shook her head slightly. "I sometimes think you WANT the people here to hate you more but you're sick and these people are not going to let you suffer through that. Neither am I." Kuvira felt her body tense up with when Su's hand move from her forehead and gently tucked a strand of wild hair away. "Besides, you're weak and at risk of an infection. We have to do this healing session today, okay? It's non-negotiable."
"She said she was okay with it?" Kuvira looked at Su anxiously. "I know she wasn't too pleased with me being in the pool the other day."
Su shrugged. "She doesn't have to be okay with it. It's the right thing to do and Lin agrees with me. Kya doesn't have to care for someone to heal them and she understands that." Turning away, Su started for the door. "Come on, Lin's waiting and she's the most impatient person in the world, so we should go." Kuvira still seemed hesitant as she pushed her blankets away. "It's going to be fine. You'll get into the tub, she'll run the water over you a few times and you'll feel better for it, okay?"
"Okay." Kuvira nodded, feeling the phlegm rattle in her chest as she breathed. She still didn't want to go, but didn't have the energy or the desire to argue with Su about it. "Anything you say, Su."
Kuvira noticed that Su frowned at the words she spoke. It shouldn't have come as a surprise, Kuvira thought. She hadn't argued with anyone since arriving on the island. Kuvira knew she wasn't wanted here, knew she shouldn't be here at all. So her mission had been to exist as little as possible. Unless she was spoken to directly, she would remain silent and keep her head down. It was for the best, really.
Just as she finished up writing in her journal-which had become a very long and jumbled mess of 'I'm so happy about Mika but so scared about the future'-Korra practically sprinted across the island when she saw Lin sipping tea and leaning against a pillar just outside the foyer.
Sitting on the island all day every day was starting to drive Korra a little crazy. She knew she wasn't fully adjusted to having her bending taken yet. In a lot of ways, Korra struggled to really comprehend that it WAS gone. Still, she needed to be doing something and Lin Beifong was just the person to make that happen.
"Lin," Korra called out, causing the older woman to grumble. "Good morning."
"Good morning yourself, kid," Lin huffed, taking another sip of her tea. "What's got you so excited this morning?"
"We asked Mika if she wanted us to adopt her and she did, so we're gonna file the paperwork next week." Korra couldn't contain the smile on her face, despite the fact that Lin seemed less than thrilled to even be having this conversation. Or any conversation this early in the morning.
"Good for you." Lin's voice sounded about as excited as she looked. "Sato too. I'm sure she's pleased."
"Yep." Korra grinned even wider, not about to let Lin's crankiness ruin her mood. "The girls are eating breakfast right now but I...kinda hoped I could talk to you about something. If...if you have the time?"
Lin crossed her arms and raised one eyebrow as she watched Korra. "Out with it, kid. I know you're gonna talk to me whether I have time or not."
"True," Korra put her hands behind her back. "I think that I should start going with you on your shifts. Making sure that Zaheer isn't causing anymore problems and that the city is safe."
"Nope," Lin responded immediately, popping her lips with the last syllable. "I know you want to help, but an Avatar that can't bend is a liability, not an asset."
Korra's hands fell to her sides and balled into fists. "What do you mean 'nope'?" she growled. "You can't just shut me down. I'm still the Avatar! It's my duty to keep Republic City safe!"
"Good luck." Lin made a noise in her throat almost like a scoff. "You do what you want, but you're not coming with me. Mako either. I'm not going to take that risk. If you could bend, it'd be different. Right now? You're defenseless. You'll get hurt, so, I'll say again, 'nope.'"
As the rage frothed up into Korra's chest, it took everything she had not to scream. "Lin, you can't just shut me out. I can't just...sit back and not do anything. You can't do that to me." The more she spoke and the more Lin seemed to be ignoring her, the angrier Korra became. "I am not defenseless. I'm still strong, I'm still fast. I can still fight!"
Lin waited until Korra stopped to look at her again.
"You done?" When Korra didn't say anything, Lin continued. "I told you I would keep you in the loop. I will. As strong as you think you are? I refuse to risk it. I refuse to do that to you. What if you did get hurt? Do you know how many people in this city would be on my ass for taking you knowing you can't bend? I'll pass. Don't yell at me for looking out for you."
"Lin, I am twenty-seven years old. I can make my own decisions. I have to do something!" Korra felt the tears brimming in her eyes and hated them. She hated showing weakness at all, but in front of Lin seemed stupid and made her feel worse. "I can't just wait for Zaheer to strike again and hurt the people I love. I have to do something!"
"We're not waiting, Korra. I have officers combing every inch of this city night and day looking for Red Lotus members." Lin was doing her best to control her anger; Korra could see it in the way her eyes flashed. "And I know you hate sitting around. That's what took you to Zaheer's prison in the first place, and that's how you ended up like this. I know you don't like it, but you're going to have to deal with it. You're not coming with me. That's final."
Korra harshly brushed at the tears in her eyes and replaced them with a scowl. "So you're blaming me for what Zaheer did? Blaming me for being hurt by him again!" She stomped her foot into the ground as the anger and frustration consumed her. "I didn't ask for any of this, Lin! I didn't ask to be the Avatar but all I've ever done is my best! I didn't ask for these Red Lotus guys to show up and try and kill me. To take three years of my life, and now this? What if I never get my bending back? What if I can't be the Avatar again? Do you know what that means, Lin? Can you wrap your bitter and lonely mind around what that will mean for me if I can't do what I was born to do?!" Korra wasn't even sure if it was Lin she was mad at anymore, but she was yelling so loudly her voice was breaking.
"Korra." Lin's voice was softer than it had been, but Korra refused to look at her. Instead of waiting, Lin pressed on. "Look. I know being the Avatar isn't something you asked for. I get it. The job comes with the risks. Zaheer is one of those risks. I know you're scared and I know they've hurt you in the past-and now you have Asami and the kid and I can only imagine what that's done for your nerves. But listen to me. I refuse to let you get hurt any more. Right now? You need to let me do my job. You're in my city. My turf. I'm the one who's supposed to keep this city safe. You're not the only one losing sleep knowing that the Red Lotus are crawling through the cracks." Lin paused to breathe, and Korra finally looked at her. "You didn't ask for this. You're right. But I did. I signed up for this job. Let me do it, properly. If I find some way for you to help, I'll let you know. But right now, you need to respect my authority and be patient."
Korra let out a long and slow breath, her hands were shaking as the ran through her hair. She swallowed the thick lump in her throat and stared up at the sky, trying to calm herself down.
"I'm sorry. I'm not mad at you. You've never done anything but support me. It's just hard...feeling helpless again. I'm not bedridden but it's like I'm back at the South Pole again. Broken and hidden away from the world. I was starting to get bored before all this." Korra chuckled at the irony. "Whatever you need me to do, I'll do." She offered Lin an agreeing nod to push her point across. "Even if that means I have to stay here and do nothing."
"I know." Lin took a deep breath before scowling into her teacup. "But you're not as helpless as you think. Right now, you're one of two people alive who remember Zaheer getting into their head. Work with Jinora, figure it out. If we learn how to stop him, that'll be huge. Until then, stay here, please. If I can use you, you'll be the first to know."
"I uh," Korra tapped her food, suddenly feeling extremely silly. "I will, it's just...Asami's going into work today and I need to go back to the apartment and get some clothes and stuff to bring back. We weren't really planning on staying here for very long before all of this and I just-" She took in a deep breath, knowing she had to push away her pride and cooperate. The last time she made a rash decision cost her her bending. "Is that okay? If I take Mika to the apartment and then come back? It'll be an hour tops. I'll have to take the stupid ferry since I can't waterbend or use the glider to get back."
"I think you can handle a trip to your apartment, Korra. If you want Mako or someone to escort you, I'll arrange it. Otherwise, fine. It's not like you're going to be gone all day."
Korra could only nod as she ran her sweaty palms over the back of her pelt wrap. "I'm sorry I got...things are tense right now and I...don't handle Zaheer well." She paused for a moment before smirking up at Lin. "I still think I could take you in a fight though. No bending, one on one." She playfully pressed her fist into her palm.
"If you're looking to get your ass kicked, then I'll give you the first punch." Lin smirked, turning her face to one side and patting her scarred cheek. "Make it a good one."
"Korra, are you staring fights again?" She turned towards the voice behind her and saw Asami coming up with Mika in her arms, both of them were smiling. "I don't think you want to get your butt kicked in front of Mika, Korra."
"What?" Mika giggled at her over-dramatic gasp. "Asami, I am wounded. Lin is an old-" a sudden burst of earth smacked Korra in the butt. "Ow! What the hell?!" She turned to see Lin sipping her tea with a grin.
"See?!" Korra huffed, motioning at Lin, "she's the one starting it."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Kuvira closed her eyes and took as deep a breath as she could manage as the water pulsated around her. Kya was kneeling in the floor next to the pool, with Lin and Su standing a few feet away as they watched. The water was calming, as was Kya's voice as she spoke.
"She needs to eat more."
Su exhaled softly. "We're trying to get her more food but there's a lot of mouths to feed on the island." Kuvira noticed Su glanced over at her and turned her head down to stare at the water. "Pema's been giving her extra and I know Jinora's helping but it's not that easy when she won't actually take the food we give her without feeling guilty about it."
"Listen." Kya's voice was firm and it drew Kuvira's gaze. "You don't eat, you're gonna die. You get sick like this again? You're done. I don't care if Pema brings you three trays of food in an hour, you eat it. You got that?"
Kuvira hesitated, glancing over at Su and Lin. Lin looked amused, with her arms crossed and her eyebrows raised. Su looked upset, and Kuvira knew Su was worried about her.
"Okay." Kuvira nodded.
"What about exercise?" Kya asked, looking up at Lin.
Lin huffed as if she'd just been asked to do an airbending dance. "What about it? You think anyone on this island is going to let her freely train on the grounds? Tenzin would have a stroke." Kuvira noticed Lin's eyes brighten just a bit, and she even seemed to smile a little. "Which is why I will stand guard and help her train myself. So that everyone feels safe."
Su snorted. "And so Tenzin can have a stroke?"
"I'm doing this for the kid, Su," Lin said with a gesture towards Kuvira.
"What kind of training could she even do?" Su wondered out loud. "I don't think you'll get her to do bending training."
"No," Kuvira answered almost instinctually. She did not want to be on this island with any sort of element at her mercy. No metal, and she fought daily to keep herself from earthbending.
"You don't want to bend?" Kya's eyebrows shot up, and she was watching Kuvira's face with interest.
"No," Kuvira repeated.
Kuvira watched her exchange a glance with Su and Lin, but no words passed between them.
"Well..." Kya furrowed her brows in thought. "Strength training? Could you do that, Lin? Help her build her muscles back up?"
"Sure, I could." Lin uncrossed her arms and leaned back against the wall behind her. "If anything she can train with the Avatar. Now that Korra's bending is gone all she does is strength train. Like if she works herself hard enough it's all gonna come back to her."
Su was chewing on her bottom lip worriedly. "That's not a good idea. Korra would do it, I'm sure, but...we don't want to set off her wife again. We've barely made amends with Asami as it is."
"You're going to have to do it on your own, Lin." Kya shrugged. "Su's right. the island is too stressed right now to have her train with Korra. I'm sure between you and Su, the two of you can come up with something. Right?"
Kuvira could feel them looking at her. Building up her courage, she glanced up to see Lin staring down at her.
"You up for it, kid?"
Kuvira briefly looked at Su. It was for permission, more than anything. Su offered a slight shrug, so Kuvira nodded.
"I guess we can try."
"Good," Kya said as she continued to move the water along Kuvira's body. She could feel her lungs starting to open up and her head starting to clear. "Tenzin is going to have a fit."
"I know," Lin boasted and Kuvira noticed Su roll her eyes with a smile.
"Anything to spite him," Kya laughed. "I knew that would get you on board."
"She's right." Su was giggling with one hand over her mouth. "You are predictable."
"Predictable is good," Lin countered as she pushed off the wall and cracked her neck. "It means no surprises, and you know how much I hate surprises."
There was a look that passed between Su and Lin that Kuvira couldn't really place. Something they both knew but didn't share out loud. Kuvira wasn't about to ask, so she closed her eyes again and let the water continue to work.
"You know, that Jinora is going to do great things with these airbenders," Su noted with a touch of warmth in her voice.
Kya smirked. "Going to? She already is. Jinora runs this island, Tenzin just hasn't figured it out yet."
"He'll have to figure it out fast," Lin snorted. "Guess who has already convinced someone that Kuvira would enjoy the library?"
"She did not convince me!" Su objected. "She asked if it would be alright. And it is."
Kuvira felt a smile playing at the corner of her mouth as she heard Lin huff.
"She just knows which one of you will get her what she wants." Kya laughed. "Su is the soft one."
Kuvira suddenly remembered fighting with Su many times when she was...not herself. The idea that Su was soft seemed a bit silly considering how hard she could smack a person with metal or earth.
"Jinora has a heart of gold, and I would think you'd be excited that she's taken a bit more leadership amongst the airbenders, Lin. It means you can actually, you know, visit the island and not act like it's killing you."
Lin groaned. "It is killing me. The food alone is enough to kill you here."
"Hey, Pema is a great cook," Su mentioned and Kuvira looked over just in time to see the death glare Lin sent her sister. All it earned her was a laugh. "Well, she is."
"Are you two going to fight in the middle of my healing session?" Kya asked playfully.
"No!" Su and Lin nearly shouted in unison.
For a split second, Kuvira forgot who she was amidst all the playfulness in the room. She forgot that she'd once tried to kill all of these people. She'd torn their families apart and threatened their lives. Threatened to ruin all of this and take it away from them. It hit her hard and suddenly the water felt suffocating. She needed to calm down; if she freaked out in the pool it might scare them.
Kuvira turned to seek out Su's eyes, desperately pleading with her to notice that she wanted out. She needed to be away from all of these people she'd hurt and be alone again. She didn't deserve to be here.
When Su finally caught her gaze, Kuvira felt a tear trickle down her cheek. "Okay, are we almost finished, Kya?" Su asked softly. "I think she's a little tired."
"Yeah. She should be alright." Kya's eyes were on Su when Kuvira looked over at her, and she saw an expression cross Kya's face that she couldn't read.
After a few moments the water stilled, and Kya held her arm out to help Kuvira stand. Kuvira gripped the side of the pool with her hands and pushed herself up, taking the hand when it was offered again. Once she stepped out of the pool, Kya bent the water out of her robes, depositing all of it back into the pool.
"You should be good to go. The fever has broken, at least, and you should be able to breathe a little better."
"I can. Thank you." Kuvira bowed respectfully, turning to see Su already waiting at the door for her as Lin watched with her arms crossed. Kuvira just wanted out.
Su was quick to give her that and after a few goodbyes they were out of the healing room and Kuvira had to keep her legs steady so she didn't run back to her room where she could lock herself away.
Once they were inside, Kuvira hugged herself to stop her arms from shaking. She wasn't cold, just scared and very tired. It had felt so good to be around people who seemed to care about her, even if it was more of a duty to be compassionate than anything she deserved. They laughed and joked; it felt like things had been before she ruined everything, when she and Opal would have fun together or she would eat the occasional family meal with Su and Bataar after a long day.
A sob caught in her throat and Kuvira sat down on the bed as Su stood back a bit watching her. She lowered her head even more, feeling nothing but shame for everything she'd done.
"I'm sorry," Kuvira managed to say after a few minutes, wiping her eyes on the back of her hand. It was another apology, and Kuvira didn't know if it was for her tears or for everything else. "I'm...it's fine."
She closed her eyes when Su sat down on the bed with her, and she felt Su's arm slip around her shoulders. She took a deep and shaky breath as she leaned against Su's shoulder, vaguely aware that Su was wearing her metal neckpiece. Kuvira hated it. But she didn't say anything as Su began to slowly rub her back.
"Why are you so nice to me?" Kuvira asked with a broken voice and all she heard was a soft laugh escape the woman next to her.
"For the same reason I tell jokes to my chef on Zaofu. I believe people deserve a second chance." Kuvira let out a slow and tired breath, wondering if the healing sessions were also meant to make your body feel as exhausted as she did right now. "You need to sleep," Su managed before standing up and holding Kuvira up for a moment.
As she laid down, Kuvira suddenly wished she was back in her cell, if only because she felt so happy to be on a warm bed with so many wonderful people around her and the guilt tied to that was horrible.
"I don't deserve this," Kuvira mumbled as sleep started to consume her.
Before she fell asleep, she was certain a pair of lips touched her forehead and a voice whispered something about, 'going to the library when you're awake,' before sleep took her.
When Kuvira woke up from her nap, it was late in the afternoon. She pushed herself up into a sitting position, yawning as she looked around the room. There was a tray of food left on the table, meaning she'd slept straight through lunch and likely dinner. She wasn't hungry, not quite anyway, but she felt immensely better than she had that morning. Her headache was gone, and she was able to breathe clearly and freely when she tried.
With the good feelings came the desire to venture out of the room. She wasn't sure if she would be allowed to or if she should be allowed to, but there was a slight desperation in her for company.
When she heard the key in the lock gently start to move, she put her hands in her lap and her head down. It opened a moment later and there was Su standing in front of her.
"Ah, third time's the charm, I see," Su said with a laugh. "Didn't think you were gonna wake up at all."
Kuvira couldn't help but smile as she shrugged a bit. "I feel better."
"Good!" Su beamed with genuine excitement. "Then you're free to join me." Kuvira gave her a questioning look. "I was going to head to the library for a bit and relax."
"You..." Kuvira thought for a moment about teasing her and decided to push through the doubt. "You hate the library. You never went to the gigantic one in your own home."
Su laughed and waved for Kuvira to stand, which she did. "Well maybe I'm taking a new interest in it."
"So you really came in here three times?" Kuvira asked, raising one eyebrow.
"Well you do need to eat, don't you?" Su smiled, before noticing the untouched food. "Are you sure you don't want to do that before we go?"
"I'll be fine." Kuvira shrugged. "Honestly, I'm not that hungry right now."
Kuvira kept her head down through the entire walk to the library. The air outside was cool, but welcoming. It felt nice to have the wind tickling her skin again, to feel the fading sun along her face and hear the sounds of people around her.
Once they reached the library, Su opened the door and let Kuvira in first. The feeling of the room was so inviting. Soft, yellow light glowed from the ceiling and a large window sat just where the sun was falling and its light poured inside. It was one of the most serene places Kuvira had ever seen.
The next thing she noticed was the other person in the room. Seated on the floor with her legs crossed and one eye open, looking up at her, was Jinora. For a second, Kuvira thought she was intruding and considered turning around and leaving, but the young airbender had a grin on her face.
"Glad to see you've finally woken up."
"Yeah, I...uh-" Kuvira wasn't sure how to respond, and was still considering turning around to leave, had it not been for Su's hand on her shoulder. "I just woke up."
"We were worried about you." Jinora smiled, motioning for Kuvira to sit down. "Are you feeling better?"
Kuvira nodded, gingerly sitting herself down on one of the cushions in the floor.
When Kuvira looked up to see Su coming in behind her, she was met with a knowing smile before Su turned around and left.
Panic set in for a moment and Kuvira twitched, but was stopped when a hand fell across her knee.
"It's okay, I asked her to bring you in here. I mean, you don't have to stay if you don't want to but I thought we could just sit for a while. This is a great place to clear your head."
Kuvira was still unsure. She would have felt safer with Su there, someone who could ground her, but there was something comforting in the young airbender's brown eyes. Kuvira could trust her. So Kuvira nodded, folding her legs underneath herself with a quiet sigh.
"Th-thank you...Jinora." By the way Jinora's eyes lit up, Kuvira was glad that she'd managed to remember her name.
Jinora offered her a warm smile. "I heard you learned how to meditate and even reach the Spirit World. That's pretty impressive for someone to pick up on their own." She snickered. "My father's lived on an air temple his entire life studying the spirit world and he still can't meditate there."
"I can," Kuvira responded with a slight hesitation. "I learned how to meditate in Zaofu...a long time ago. And I started in prison to clear my head but-one day I just opened my eyes and I was in the Spirit World. It was an accident, honestly."
Jinora laughed softly. "Me too, really. I had no intentions of entering the Spirit World the first time I did it, but the spirits and that...energy-it all just came naturally to me." She breathed sharply through her nose and placed her hands in her lap. "Of course, I was eleven at the time so my dad was terrified I was going to be attacked by an angry spirit or something. Which, technically, I WAS but other than that it's been the best thing I could have hoped for. It's gone a long way towards helping me help Korra too." Kuvira felt herself tense at the mention of the Avatar, remembering the last time she entered the spirit world.
A wave of guilt washed over her, though this time it wasn't associated with that day or her actions regarding the Spirit Cannon.
"I thought I could help her too," Kuvira admitted, looking down at her lap. "When Zaheer attacked me in the spirit world...I spent so much energy trying to warn her, and all it caused was...this."
Jinora nodded slightly, but wasn't looking at her. "Korra reacted badly when she found out it was Zaheer doing these things. He...doesn't bring out the most rational part of her. She's more afraid of him than she would ever admit, despite how far she's come since he hurt her." Kuvira could see so many untold memories in Jinora's eyes. When she took over the charge of rebuilding the Earth Kingdom, it was only stories of the injured Avatar that she heard. She was never close enough to see the damage herself. Though now, the look in Jinora's eyes, told her how devastating it had all been. "She shouldn't have gone after him the way she did. We should have had a better plan." Suddenly, Jinora turned her gaze to Kuvira with a gentle look in her eyes. "I know it's too soon and...I'm not going to ask you to do anything right now. But...you blocked Zaheer's mind control, right?"
"I...think?" Kuvira shrugged. "I guess that's what I did. Whatever I did pissed him off. I just remember trying to meditate back to my body. Trying to block out the pressure." Kuvira was willing to tell Jinora whatever was necessary, if it would help, though she herself wasn't sure of what she'd done.
"I've been studying the techniques Zaheer is using to enter into people's minds and...I think I can manage it with a willing mind but not against someone actively fighting me. Which Korra was and yet she still couldn't hold him off." Jinora seemed hesitant and Kuvira could tell she was dealing with things no one around her would openly approve of. In a way, Kuvira felt honored that Jinora was even bringing it up. "When you're feeling better, if you're up for it, I'd like to test it out on you and see if you can block me. Maybe...maybe I could figure out a way to reverse what he's done or even counter it, like you did." Jinora then immediately put her hands up disarmingly. "Of course, if you're not comfortable with it or anything like that I absolutely won't. I would never force you to do anything."
Kuvira watched her for several long moments. She was looking at Kuvira worriedly, and it was clear that this was something she herself wasn't comfortable with.
What is Zaheer doing?
Still, Kuvira knew someone had to try. If that meant trusting Jinora to do it, so be it. Kuvira knew her mind was much stronger than her body, so she nodded.
"Whenever you're ready,"
"Are you sure?" Jinora still seemed very unsure. "That's not why I asked Su to bring you here, I promise. I only intended to bring it up, not to actually do anything."
"I understand," Kuvira assured her, clearing her throat. "Considering how urgent this seems, I'm...I'm glad you did. If you think I can help you, then I'm ready when you are."
"Okay." Jinora held a gaze on her for a moment before looking away and resting her hands on her knees. "Okay, close your eyes and try and clear your mind. Assuming I can even do this. If it's at all uncomfortable please stop me." Kuvira nodded even though Jinora's eyes were shut and they sat quietly for a moment.
Clearing her mind proved harder than Kuvira had expected. She was flooded with so many bad memories any time she shut her eyes that wiping those away was a challenge. Eventually, though, she managed to shut off the loudest of them and actually found a bit of peace in the silence around them.
It was then that the pressure came. It wasn't heavy, and it didn't hurt like it had in the Spirit World, but it still came and spread from her forehead to somewhere behind her eyes. Kuvira kept her mind as clear as she could manage. Trying to focus on her deep and rhythmic breathing. Within a few moments, the pressure was gone, and she heard Jinora groan in frustration.
"I'm still so new at this. I don't know how Zaheer learns all of this stuff so quickly." Kuvira opened her eyes to see Jinora looking at her. "Did you feel anything at all?"
"Pressure," Kuvira replied. "Same as before. But it didn't hurt. Not like it did in the Spirit World." Kuvira paused, watching as Jinora frowned. There was only one question that had plagued Kuvira recently, and she thought maybe Jinora would be able to answer it. "Why—how did I stop him?"
The breathy laugh and soft shrug Jinora made stirred a bit of disappointment in Kuvira. She had hoped Jinora would have the exact answer why. But clearly it was a mystery to her. "The only thing I can think of is that your mind is so...self aware that you understood what was going on and actively worked against it." Jinora set her gaze on Kuvira again. "You've always had very strong convictions, even now you're set on not scaring anyone and are doing whatever you can to ensure you don't. Maybe...maybe your mind is too strong for Zaheer. I'm not sure. I just know that whatever power he had was able to break through and scare Raava enough to completely shut herself off from Korra, as far as we know. And yet...he couldn't get through to you. Which means that you might be very important if we have to stop Zaheer from hurting any more people. Because he's going to come for Korra again." The sadness that shifted into Jinora's eyes sunk into Kuvira's heart. "He will do awful things to her in an attempt to bring out the Avatar State again and we can't let that happen. I can't."
Kuvira understood that that was why Jinora was working so hard to find out why and how he was doing this. She took a deep breath and set her jaw, and when Jinora raised her eyebrow, Kuvira nodded once. She'd made up her mind. Whatever she had to do.
"Let's try again."