Soldier Eyes
Soldier's Eyes
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Release date

April 13th, 2016

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Part 2

Korra always liked this place. It wasn't a particularly large coffee shop, and nor was it the best priced, or even had the best coffee. But it had good service, and it was located at a very special place: right across from the World War 2 memorial. It always reminded her that somehow, it hadn't all been for nothing.

Typically, Korra spent quite a bit of time down here, mostly because of the memorial, but also because it was close to her own apartment. Getting around without a car was difficult, and unfortunately, that wasn't within her reach just yet. But right here, so close to home, there was always activity, the friendly staff, and the welcoming smell of coffee. Korra busied herself reading, both the old-fashioned way as well as e-books, like she was doing today.

Her cup had become empty fifteen minutes ago, but that didn't bother the staff. Morning rush hour was over as well, and they typically didn't mind her reading there if that was the case. Right now though, Korra was feeling like another one.

With a sigh, she shut her iPad down and wheeled herself over to the counter for a refill. "Hey Jin, can I get another one?"

-"Sure thing, coming right up." Jinora set to work making Korra her regular order: a mochachino with an extra shot of espresso. Chocolate to make her feel slightly happier, extra caffeine to make something of the - at best - mediocre coffee. In the middle of making it, Jinora turned around and smiled. "You can go back to your reading, I'll bring it to you in a minute."

Korra flashed her a small smile back. "Thanks." She turned her wheelchair around, rolling back to her table, where she picked up her e-book again. A few minutes later, Jinora did exactly as she promised, bringing Korra her mocha. It was at about this time that another regular customer entered, though it was one that Korra still hadn't bothered learning the name from, but which she definitely should in the not too distant future, because damn.

She was flat-out gorgeous; long legs, typically squeezed into skinny jeans (today was no exception), perfect hourglass figure, long, flowing, raven black hair, and the brightest green eyes Korra had ever seen. That didn't include her ever immaculate make-up, her perfectly proportioned face, or even her very easy-on-the-eyes posterior. To say that Korra was a bit jealous of her would be an understatement, but then again, Korra was jealous of virtually anyone with two functioning legs.

They briefly locked eyes, which made Korra blush, as she was kind of unapologetically staring. Instead of creepily gawking at her while she was ordering her coffee, Korra focused back on her iPad, reading her book as she did.

-"Mind if I join you?"

Korra looked up, seeing the woman standing right in front of her. "Uhh, sure," she stammered, holding up her hand to urge her to sit down. "What's your name?"

-"I'm Asami," she said, hanging her leather jacket over the seat and placing her helmet on the table. "What's yours?"

"Korra. Say, not to pry, but don't you normally have a very heavy bag with a lot of paperwork in it?"

Asami raised an eyebrow. "Been stalking much?" she asked, though her smirk gave away that remark was more sarcastic than ticked off.

A slight blush colored Korra's cheeks. "Well, you know, I might have seen you around."

The smirk just kept on lining Asami's face. "Well, not to worry, I've noticed you in here too." They both took a sip of their coffees, and when they put them back down, she spoke up again. "Can I ask you something?"

"Depends on the question."

She stayed quiet for a moment, eyeing Korra up. "You were a soldier, weren't you?"

Korra was surprised. Two minutes with her and she'd already figured it out. "Yes, I was. I assume it was this thing that gave me away," she said, tapping her wheelchair.

Much to her surprise, Asami shook her head. "No. You have a soldier's eyes. Eyes that have seen things that no one should ever have to see. You can always tell who has them if you know what to look for."

Korra leaned back in her seat, eyeing her up closely, but she didn't find what she was looking for. "How do you know this, when chances are that you weren't a soldier?"

-"I work down at the VA, lead group therapy sessions. A lot of veterans come there, share experiences, hear people who went through the same thing. They find comfort in each other."

"I suppose you want me to come as well?"

-"Never seen you over there, so I was wondering."

"Look, I appreciate the concern, but sitting in a circle and singing Kumbayah isn't really my thing."

Asami chuckled. "That's not what we do. Now I don't know what you've been through, but..."

Korra didn't let her finish, as this was a sensitive subject for her. "No, you don't," she snapped. "I've buried more friends than I care to mention, and the worst part is that I couldn't even help carry their coffins because I'm stuck in this fucking chair. Fuck you, I don't need help."

During this outburst, Asami said nothing, and it stayed quiet for a long time between them. Korra had turned her attention back to her iPad, though what she was reading wasn't sticking. She'd read the same page at least six times and still had no idea what was happening on it.

-"I think you do," Asami eventually said. "And what's more, I think you know it, just not willing to admit it." She pulled a business card out of her pocket, placing it on the table between them. "Think about it," she calmly said, taking her jacket and helmet with her. "Put her order on my tab," was the last thing Korra caught of her before she walked out the door.

This was a very strange feeling. Korra hadn't felt guilty to someone so directly since she came back from Afghanistan two years ago. She had been a total bitch to Asami, and yet here she was, patient, kind, generous, the whole nine yards. It was rare to come across someone who wasn't taking pity on her because 'she's in a wheelchair and therefore a sad story' or 'thanking her for her service' that Korra found total bullshit. It was her civic duty, and if she did it for pats on the back, she did it for the wrong reasons.

She looked out the window, seeing Asami getting on her motorcycle, and Korra felt another pang of jealously go through her. Something she'd dreamt of more than anything was to get herself a motorcycle as well, but that dream was shattered along with her legs.

Still, that hardly excused her behavior just now. She would definitely have to apologize for that next time Asami came by the shop.

Unfortunately for Korra, she didn't. Three days went by, and Asami didn't come by the coffee shop, even when Korra showed up extra early to make sure she'd sit through the morning rush hour. After that, it was weekend, and not even Korra was depressed enough to spend her weekends in there. It was over the weekend that she came to a different conclusion: she'd have to go see Asami.

The business card had an address on it, and it wasn't too far from the coffee shop. Mind you, any distance is quite far when you have to go there by wheelchair. Instead of doing that, she called a cab service, explained her situation, and got a very friendly and helpful driver to get her over to the VA.

Korra didn't like coming here. It felt like being back in the hospital that made her utterly miserable for so many weeks after she'd come back from Afghanistan. That was partly her own fault, as she threw a massive fit, screaming the entire hospital security staff together when she found out what had really happened to her and to her unit. It also caused her a sprained wrist and two torn tendons in her arms, because she had been in a coma for two weeks and hadn't used her muscles at all.

-"You decided to come!" a cheery voice came from behind her. Korra swiveled her wheelchair around, seeing those long legs striding towards her in a confident pace.

"Something like that." She took a deep breath. "Look, I just wanted to apologize to you. I've barely spoken to anyone about what happened to me in Afghanistan, and for people to then start prying into it just feels wrong to me. I know it's a shitty excuse, but I just wanted you to know that part. You deserve that much."

A slight smile appeared on Asami's face. "Apology accepted. Now, since you're here, care to join a session? You don't have to say anything, just try listening first, see what happens. If you don't like it, you can leave and never come back."

Korra mulled it over for a few moments, before deciding it probably couldn't do any harm. "Sure, what's there to lose?" She wheeled herself after Asami, who went into a room, most people already there. What Korra immediately noticed was that she seemed to be the only one who was physically disabled, the rest appeared to be fully functioning from a distance.

But a closer look revealed exactly what Asami had said: they all had the same look in their eyes. Just like she said, they were all vaguely distant, as if they still were trying to suppress very vivid memories.

Everyone took notice of her entrance, but no one said anything. Instead of joining the existing circle, Korra moved herself over to the back of the room, making sure she at least had full oversight of all comings and goings.

The stories she heard were heavy, yet they were all familiar. People who were saw their friends get killed right in front of them, stories of Black Hawks downed while carrying entire units, or like herself, convoys stumbling over IED's, killing or injuring men by the truckload.

But there was one story in particular that stood out to her. It was from another woman, one that Korra would have never guessed to be the military type, but there she was.

-"It was in Helmand... First tour, one of my first missions. We had to go door-to-door in a town, plenty of support, snipers and everything to have our backs. That was a nice feeling, but the end result was... less than stellar. There was a mother with a kid, came out in the middle of the street, and they just kept coming at us, even when there were a dozen M16's pointed at them. No one had the guts to pull the trigger though. No one but the sniper, he shot the mother first, kid second. The mother took a headshot and was killed instantly, but the kid took a bullet to the chest, and lived for a few more seconds."

She briefly paused for a chuckle. "That mother was a complete psychopath, because she was the one wearing a belt of explosives. The kid had a grenade, and she just didn't want him to become an orphan. I was the first one to reach him, but he took a 7.62 to the chest, no way could he have survived that, so he died in my arms. Couldn't have been more than ten years old."

Again, the girl paused fidgeting with her hands for a bit. "I haven't been able to put him out of my head ever since. He had these massive grey eyes, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about him. Every night when I'm in bed, I see those eyes, and I can't help but feel guilt, like he was shot for me. Like if I wouldn't have been there, he wouldn't have died."

It stayed silent for a while in the room after she finished talking, which was ultimately broken by Asami. "You can't control everything that happens, but you can control how you respond. You just have to figure out how, but that is why we're all here. To help you. It doesn't matter if you're 15.000 miles away, or right here in this room; you are not alone, Opal."

After the meeting, they mixed a little bit more, talking to each other. Korra wheeled herself over to Opal, wanting to talk to her. "That was heavy stuff back there."

She nodded and looked down, taking a seat beside her.

"What branch were you?"

-"Army. Made it to corporal, couldn't shake it after that. Didn't go back for a second tour. You?"

Korra nodded. "Marines. Did two tours, this happened to me three weeks before I was supposed to go home," she said, tapping her wheelchair. "I'm Korra."


"Nice to meet you." Korra took a deep breath, because now came the big one. "It was me."

Opal looked at her incredulously. "What do you mean?"

"I was the sniper keeping overwatch, the one who shot the kid."

Her surprise was only growing. "You are the Angel of Helmand?"

Korra smiled. "So I've been told."

-"You saved my life, and the life of the dozen men next to me. That crazy bitch had enough explosives around her waist to bring down a building. Thank you."

"Don't mention it."

Opal took a sip of her coffee, trying to buy some time, was Korra's best guess. "Is it true that you killed 83 insurgents?"

Korra nodded. "83 confirmed, the actual number is closer to 120. The kid and the mother were confirmed." She briefly paused. "Sorry I did that right in front of you."

She shrugged. "Someone had to. Can I ask, does it ever bother you, that you had to do it?"

"It was you or the kid, so I chose you. I remember that day exactly." Korra sighed, leaning back in her wheelchair. "You know, I don't think it'll ever leave me. After all, I shot a kid, but if I hadn't, I would have a dozen extra graves on Arlington on my conscience. So no, I'm not happy I had to do it, but if I had to pull that trigger again, I wouldn't hesitate a moment to do so."

Opal smiled and patted the back of Korra's hand. "And that's what makes you a good soldier." She took a quick look at the clock. "Well, I'm afraid I have to go. I hope you come by again, it was nice meeting you."

"Likewise. See you around, Opal." Korra watched as she retreated, thinking their meeting over. She remembered that day exactly but never thought about the implications it would have for the soldiers at the receiving end of her M110. In her mind, it was always just that they would have gotten a brief surge of adrenaline, and that would be it. She also didn't know that the kid wasn't killed instantly like she always thought he did.

But now she slowly started to realize how complex it must have been for all of them down there. Korra had met one, but who were the other eleven, and how were they handling it? Were they all in the same state as Opal, or more in the mindset that Korra thought they would be in?

She pondered the issue for a while, but then her train of thought was interrupted by Asami. "What did you think?

"Well, it's not the floaty-spiritual-enlightenment-zen-bullshit I thought it would be. It looks like you're really helping these people."

-"This is my way of doing my civic duty. Look, I'm not a soldier, I can't go over there and protect this country like you did, but I can do this, which I think is the next best thing. I'm working on a few other things as well, but as of now, this is the only thing I can really do."

"What other things?"

-"A few projects to help veterans like yourself, who have lost part of their bodies, or at least, the use of part of it in your case. I work for Future Industries, it's my father's company, but I spend three mornings a week here at the VA."

Korra smiled. "That explains."

-"Explains what?" Asami asked with a confused look on her face.

"The BMW K1300R you're riding. That's an expensive pair of wheels, and I figured you wouldn't be able to afford it with a volunteer's salary of squat."

Asami chuckled. "Yeah, I suppose. You're right though, I do this because I want to, and I work at my dad's company because I'm expected to." A brief silence fell between them. "You wanted one too?"

"I promised myself to buy one when I got back from my second tour. Not an import though, I'd go for something made from pure American clog iron."

-"Harley?" Asami asked, a slight grin on her face.

"Biggest Harley-fan on four wheels," Korra smirked back, and Asami's grin quickly turned into full-blown laugh, which was just a very... nice sound. "Hey, if I can't make a self-deprecating joke, there's not a lot left for me." This only made Asami laugh harder, which made it all worth it. It was at about this point that Korra decided to go for it. "Hey Asami? Can I ask you for something?"

-"Sure, go ahead."

"Go out with me for a cup of coffee? Maybe so I can make sure it doesn't end with me yelling at you?"

The smile that was still on her lips slightly grew, and Korra could swear she saw a hint of a blush on Asami's cheeks. "Yeah. I'd like that."

Well guys, little one-shot here for you, probably going to make this into a two-parter. It was a little something that popped into my mind after listening to Jack Savoretti's Soldier's Eyes. (Magnificent song from the Sons of Anarchy soundtrack. Brilliant show, great soundtrack, highly recommend looking it up.)

Korra's RecoveryThe Road to Nowhere SpecialSoldier's Eyes - Part 1InkedSmokin'For Those About To RockSoldier's Eyes - Part 2Bath TimeGym BuddiesThe New TAMoving Out, Moving OnEarning Her SpursSwimming in the RainA Drink For FreeInsiderHow I Got to MemphisWhat Happens In Vegas...VendettaThe Snow StormStays in Vegas...SaturdayPublic TransportThe Big DayThe FighterLights, Camera, ActionWhat Happens In College...Small-Block V8... Or Maybe NotSpur of the MomentThe Suit Makes the WomanAsami Alone
Other works (mostly Kainora)
TicketsAs Tough As You AreThe CompoundWas It Worth It?Coffee to GoBest Hangover EverBest Hangover Ever 2Winter Olympics 2018Lost In the Woods
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The Divided RepublicTeam PlayerAll Are EqualThe CallgirlWho We AreShe's a PirateWhere Do We Start?Some Day They'll Go Down Together

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For the collective works of the author, go here.