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|More from Kugumi||Romance, Drama||PG-13||None||None|
|Art by Skellagirl|
Arc 1: Air
August 1st, 2013
It was the morning of their fifteenth day here—and yes, Tarrlok was keeping track. Reluctantly Takotna had permitted her son and daughter-in-law to stay in her home for the duration of their time in the North. Sitting at the quaint dining table, Tarrlok sipped lightly at the edge of a tiny glass containing his favorite brew of jasmine tea. It was steaming and warm, but if he didn't drink it now it would grow cold from the low temperatures the North had to offer. His mother was seated across from him. She hadn't been able to even look at him since he had ambushed her with his terrible confession upon his arrival, but even so she had still been willing to let them stay there—they were the only family she had left. Tarrlok didn't expect her to forgive him. In some senses, he didn't want her to forgive him. No details had been left unexplored that first night when he had filled her in on all the events that had happened since the last time he had seen her. Tarrlok had covered everything: the moment he had graduated from the Northern Water Tribe University, his election to Councilman of Republic City as the Northern Water Tribe's Representative, challenges with Amon, Korra's arrival to Republic City, the encounter with Noatak resulting in the loss of his own bending, the self-inflicted "accident" with Noatak and the motor boat headed for Red Sand Island, all the time and money spent on his medical treatments and hospitalization, his re-election, the tensions between the two Water Tribes, and finally he had finished with the circumstances of his marriage to Korra. He had known it was a lot of information for his mother to absorb, and he had talked more than enough to satisfy the need for conversation. For now what they needed was the silence.
Tarrlok went to sup another sip of his beverage, but a monster in the guest room of his mother's home was on a rampage. That monster's name was Korra. She had insisted that this morning she needed to focus on her meditations and would not be joining them for breakfast. Tarrlok was more than certain that meditation usually meant quiet and retreating into your own thoughts. From the sounds he had been subjected to all morning, however, Korra's version of meditation seemed to have a striking resemblance to what you would expect from a rabid pack of hungry wolves.
More of Korra's frustrated howling was carried into the small dining area, causing his mother to flinch slightly. The councilman thought he had heard the sound of wood snapping in half that time—he would have to investigate that later. He set down his empty glass just as Korra stomped out of her room. He gave her his sly smile, knowing something had really stirred up her temper this morning. She narrowed her eyes at him. "What?" She asked defensively, plopping down next to him and reaching for a bowl of rice at the center of the table.
"Things not going so well with the Spirit World today?" He asked her with a bit of an arrogant chuckle.
She wanted to threaten him and tell him she wasn't afraid to use her Avatar powers to beat him up in front of his mother. Given the current situation, however, that didn't seem to be the appropriate response. Much to Korra's surprise, her father had given Tarrlok his blessing within the first six days of their stay here—which, for obvious reasons, did not sit well with Korra. She was, however, trying to uphold her own mental bargain by being less abrasive with Tarrlok.
For the past week or so, as Korra was getting to know Takotna, the woman had been teaching her a few simple things that Northern Water Tribe wives were expected to do. Based on what little Korra had gathered, throwing out insults and physically upstaging her husband were both off-limits. She sat there quietly, a scowl on her face, as she took an angry bite out of the food his mother had been kind enough to prepare for them.
Tarrlok hadn't done anything to merit Korra's anger—this time, at least. Her rage this morning actually stemmed from her inability to connect with the Spirit World. She would have considered Tarrlok's comment a taunt, but since she had not told him—or anyone else, for that matter—about this problem, she was willing to let it slide. Korra determined that he obviously didn't know what he was talking about.
When Korra did not answer him, Tarrlok perked his only eyebrow at her. Was there something wrong with the Spirit World? He hadn't meant any offense by what he had said, Tarrlok had only hoped to goad a response out of her—which had not been the case. Hm. Perhaps now would be a good time to take his leave. Tarrlok had other plans for the day anyhow. He rose from his chair with a quick farewell to his wife and his mother. "Well, I had better be going," Tarrlok removed his parka and gloves from their place by the front door and hurriedly adorned them, "If I'm back late, don't wait up for me."
Without another word, Tarrlok left to make the trip to the village once more. Korra sighed, poking disinterestedly at the food on her plate. Tarrlok didn't know how serious this issue really was—mostly on account of the fact that Korra hadn't told him about it yet, but still. As the Avatar it was Korra's duty to be the bridge between the mortal and the spiritual worlds. If she couldn't make that connection, then she wasn't doing her job as the Avatar. Without her to be the mortal link, who knew what kind of devastation and havoc would be unleashed on the mortal realm to knock the world out of balance. Korra pressed her forehead to the surface of the table, trying to think of a way to fix this. Tenzin was supposed to teach her this stuff, and even her Uncle to some extent. Korra couldn't really blame either of the two of them for her failure with this, though. They could teach her all the patience, spirituality, as much about chakras as they wanted, but the only person that could teach her how to be the Avatar was Aang—and right now she couldn't even contact him for help.
What was happening? Why was this happening? It wasn't a problem on Aang's end. He had the ability to contact her through visions and dreams—sometimes even through less conventional means such as manifesting himself, but the way Korra understood it, that took a lot of his spiritual energy to accomplish. But on Korra's side? It was mostly static. It was like trying to communicate with a brick wall. She was getting nothing in response.
The Avatar's head shot up in response to her mother-in-law's concerned voice. Takotna was gathering up Tarrlok's empty dishes, but Korra could see in her eyes that she was genuinely worried. "Is there a problem with the Spirits?" she asked.
After the fiasco that occurred about six months ago with out of control spirits, Korra could understand why she might be a bit apprehensive at the mention of Spirit World issues. "Well I," Korra wasn't sure how to phrase this delicately, so she just blurted out the truth, "I don't know."
Perhaps that was kind of a bad sign. If the Avatar couldn't figure out what the problem was, then how could there be any hope for the world? Man everything was so messed up right now. Korra was supposed to be keeping peace, harmony, and balance. Balance was out the window and harmony was in jeopardy. Peace still remained, but with two of her three responsibilities failing, Korra could not say for how much longer peace would actually last. Then, on top of all of her Avatar problems that she was dealing with, Korra was also being confronted with a whole slew of marital problems. If she had to undergo anymore stress, she was sure that she would finally meet her breaking point. She gave Korra what could be called an encouraging expression. "Maybe they're distressed by the disturbance with the Northern and Southern Tribes?" she suggested.
Well, the Northern Tribe was the final residence of the Moon and Ocean Spirits—maybe Takotna was right? And Korra was from the Water Tribe. It actually made a lot of sense when Korra thought about it. The spirits might have revoked their connection to her because they thought she wasn't representing her position as the Avatar and her heritage as a Water Tribe girl. "How am I supposed to convince them that I can do this if they're just going to give me the silent treatment?" Korra countered with mild frustration.
"Maybe they're trying to make a statement in their silence?" The lines of age on her face became more visible as a kind smile tugged at the corners of her mouth, "If they're being silent, then have you considered the possibility that they would like you to prove your dedication by showing them rather than simply telling or convincing them of it?"
She turned around to take the unwanted dishes elsewhere for washing, leaving Korra to ponder her advice. The Avatar twisted Takotna's words over in her mind. Could it really be that easy? No... maybe it wasn't that easy... maybe that was the point? "Wait, how am I supposed to do that? Where am I supposed to look to find something like that?"
The older woman paused mid-step to turn heel and face Korra once more. Her warm smile was still present on her face. Korra was young and needed her wisdom and guidance, but no matter what advice that Takotna could give her, ultimately Korra would make her own decision regarding the matter at hand. "I don't know." She shrugged at Korra's question. "I'm sure the answer will reveal itself to you in time. Patience is a virtue, after all."
With that she turned again to take care of the dishes. Korra's lower lip protruded from her face in an annoyed pout. She tapped her fingers against the table irritably, unsatisfied with that response. Again with the patience-stuff. She was a lot like her dad when it came to that sort of thing: neither of them were very gifted with it—as could be proven by how irritable Tonraq had been since Tarrlok had arrived to the city that morning. Yes, by the late afternoon Tonraq seemed all kinds of "out-of-it". Tarrlok understood the type of stress that likely plagued the man, and he couldn't fault him for being so distracted. All day he had been following Tonraq around and learning about the palace's workings. In other words, the same thing he had been doing with Tonraq everyday since he had earned the man's blessing. Frankly, Tarrlok thought proving himself as a good suitor for Korra had been a lot easier than all of the politics he was dealing with in the north now.
All he had to do to get Tonraq's approval was hunt down a panda-whale. Those undersea creatures were actually quite rare in the north, south, or otherwise. In spite of that fact, it had taken him such a short time to find and harpoon one, leading Tarrlok and the rest of the Northern nobility to believe that the Spirits must have been in Tarrlok's favor. Around his neck he now wore a symbol of the successful hunt in the form of the beast's teeth strung together as a necklace. It was also a symbol of Tonraq's nigh-impossible challenge to him in exchange for Korra's hand in marriage. Of course, Tarrlok and Korra's marriage had taken place prior to this, but it was customary to receive the father's blessing before asking for his daughter's hand. Even though the councilman and the Avatar had done things a little bit backwards, Tonraq's blessing had been the final piece to make things officially "official". There was only one thing left that they could do that would solidify their marriage and keep the pressure off of their shoulders. Tarrlok had been constantly nagged about it since that meeting with the council a couple weeks ago, and now even Tonraq was beginning to question when Tarrlok was going to break the news to Korra.
These were the things that he reflected on as he returned to his mother's home that night. There was no way for him to know that Korra had been under her own stresses all day long. He had hoped that her little outburst that morning was just Korra waking up. Unbeknownst to him, however, she had been somewhat of a dragon for his mother to bear the rest of the day as well. By the time he walked through the door frame and hung his parka and gloves up on the rack beside the door, the house was finally quiet. The lights were out, Takotna had retired to her bed for the evening, and Korra was nowhere in sight. "She probably turned in early." Tarrlok thought aloud.
He carefully swept a displaced dishrag into his hands and tip toed to the kitchen to put it back where it belonged. He then scratched the back of his head tiredly. His day had been long, and full of relentless strains. Based on the hierarchy of Water Tribe Royalty, Tarrlok was actually a prince now. If Unalaq had not taken the throne when he did, Korra and Tarrlok would have been the next rulers. Naturally, Tarrlok had never intended to become so deeply engrossed in the Northern Tribe's political system, hence why he had campaigned so hard to be their elected representative in Republic City instead. He smiled to himself. It was a thoughtful smile, but might have looked smug if anyone had been looking. At least he finally understood all of the expectations the Northern Tribe wanted him to represent. Korra—on the other hand—knew nothing of what her expectations were, and if she did, then she was making a poor example of herself.
However, that was one reason that Tarrlok had been so committed to learning all of this—so that Korra didn't have to. Her job was to be the Avatar; to keep peace, balance, and harmony to all corners of the world. Tarrlok could provide her with the prowess she needed in order to do this. He had once told her that they made a good team... and if it weren't obviously true, then she wouldn't have agreed with him. Their entire future would need that positive teamwork as a foundation if they wanted things to run smoothly. Tarrlok felt that it could actually be possible for them—if Korra was willing to put the effort and make the sacrifices that he was as well.
As he ambled to the bedroom he was staying in—which at one point was actually Noatak's room—unraveling his hair in the process, he noticed a freezing draft coming from his old room. Coincidentally, this was where Korra had been sleeping for the duration of their stay. He went to investigate; maybe she had left a window open or something? Tarrlok paused when he reached the doorway, surprised to find that Korra was still awake. She was sitting in the center of the room on a fluffy leopard-seal pelt that had been transformed into a rug, and she was staring out the open window at the moonlight drifting in. Tarrlok perked a brow and looked around the rest of the room. The bed was unmade and the nightstand his father had built when he was boy had been mysteriously torn into three pieces, but the rest of the room looked rather untouched. He approached the Avatar with caution. If she was meditating, then he definitely did not want to disturb her. "Korra?" he asked, a little unsure.
"Hi Tarrlok," she greeted somewhat solemnly without moving to face him, "I saw your sled team come in."
Ah. So that explained why she hadn't been startled. Korra was still dressed in her everyday clothes, but then again, Korra was known to sleep in her street clothes anyway. He could have tried to figure out what she was doing on the floor, but instead he settled for something that better reflected his shamelessness. "I thought I told you not to wait up for me."
His tone was calm. Not the usual harshness that Korra had come to expect from him. She still could not help but to shoot him an ugly glare from over her shoulder. He smiled at her and took her dagger-like eyes as an invitation to sit down. Tarrlok grunted slightly as he took a place beside her on the animal fur. His age was starting to set in. At thirty eight, Tarrlok was definitely not a spring opossum-chicken. Korra did not rebuke him. Her voice was equally calm and free of its usual feisty attitude, "As if I would wait up for you."
Their banter was more playful right now than anything else. It was a nice change of pace. Tarrlok drew his attention to the crescent moon in the sky. He wondered idly what Korra must have been thinking about. Probably something spirit-related, he decided.
"Listen, Korra," that was pretty much never a good way to start a serious conversation, "there's something I've been meaning to tell you about the Northern Water Tribe's Council."
Korra furrowed her brow. Did she even want to know? Probably not, but still, she was supposed to be the Avatar—so she might as well hear him out. "What is it?"
He laughed a bit, "It's a scapegoat for all of our politically motivated Water Tribe stresses, that's what it is."
Tarrlok was actually heavily against this idea, but he was in the minority. He tried to take Korra's desires into consideration, but he sincerely believed that the Water Tribes were asking too much of them as a couple. If they followed through with this request, however, the outcome would result in an unbreakable alliance and would restore peace to the tribes. Korra likely would not see it this way. She was more the type to see it as an infringement of her rights as a human being, not as a responsibility of hers as the Avatar.
Korra peeked at him out of the corner of her eye. She had only ever seen him with his hair down once before—and it hadn't really been down, it had been battle weary. This time it was down. She had never notice before how long Tarrlok's hair actually was. He hadn't answered her question though, all he was doing was dancing around the actual answer. "Tarrlok," warning of anger was heavy in her voice now, "tell me what the council wants this time."
He was more self-conscious about this than he had realized, and had only just become aware of this fact when Korra began making demands. "Er, well," spirits, this was a lot harder to spit out than he had thought, "it has been brought to my attention that we should consider... starting a family."
Korra's eyes went wide. The council did not say that—did they? Her? With Tarrlok? It was Tarrlok. Plus, she was only eighteen! Wait, that was actually kind of old for a Water Tribe girl to start a family. Still! Korra simply could not wrap her head around the idea of being a mother—and with Tarrlok as the father, no less. This wasn't even counting what they would have to do to even make such a thing happen. Korra was just in complete shock at what Tarrlok had just suggested. Her only consolation was that he seemed just as uncomfortable with the subject as she did.
As Tarrlok quickly fumbled through an explanation, Korra's mind retreated to her conversation with Takotna earlier that day. Korra needed a way to prove to the spirits that she was dedicated to restoring the balance and harmony between the two Water Tribes—and by extension, the world. A baby was like a physical manifestation of creation, like a pact. This particular baby's heritage and blood would be strong enough to bond the tribes together in a way that shows Korra and Tarrlok are not going to abandon each other. Then, as Tarrlok had mentioned, the tribes would be at ease—effectively giving them a scapegoat for all of their stress. Of course, new stresses would be brought out from raising a family, but it wasn't the same as being the only people standing in no-man's-land with a war on the edge of fruition. Korra was sure if she did this the Northern and Southern Water Tribes would start to ease themselves out of her personal life outside of being the Avatar. There was always the rule of "heir and a spare" to be considered, though. It was usually a rule reserved for royalty, which even though Korra fell into that category, she wouldn't have been expected to uphold that rule were she not in this situation. It was the same principle that applied, but only because this family would be borne as part of a treaty. So then... two. She'd have to plan for two if she went through with this hare-brained scheme.
Tarrlok was still talking when Korra finally returned from her own thoughts. He had talked himself in circles and was now off on some tangent. Korra looked again at the moon draping its gentle light over the two of them. It seemed pretty clear to Korra that the Moon Spirit was trying to give her the answer she had been looking for.
Korra pulled her legs close to her chest and cut off her rambling husband. "Okay."
Her voice, quiet as it was, had brought the councilman's rant to a complete halt. He gave her an incredulous look. Did she actually say what he thought he heard? Korra looked at his blue eyes, her face devoid of emotions that would likely break her resolve. "I said okay," she repeated, and in case he needed her to reiterate again, she also rephrased her response, "Let's have a baby."
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