I originally wrote this after the Book 3 Season finale. it was an attempt for me to sort through my emotional reaction to Korra's state at the end. I didn't intend to publish it, but while looking through my old things, I found it and decided to clean it up and post it.
It's short and personal. I hope that it's enjoyable as well.
“Tenzin, could you take this in to Tonraq?”
Tenzin looked up and saw that Pema had prepared a tray of food. In that instant he felt a surge of love for his wife. It was the little things she would do that helped make life worth enjoying. He quickly enveloped her in a warm hug, pecking a kiss on her forehead. She smiled and sputtered, feigning surprise, but was slow to let him go. They all needed something, something positive, to overcome what they had just been through. He took the tray from her and glided off, towards Korra's room.
When he arrived, he hesitated, then knocked twice softly. It wasn't a request for entry, as much as an announcement of company. He turned the knob and entered, taking in the scene. Korra's bed took up his initial focus. There she lay, sunken, breathing shallowly, sleeping, healing. Anyone seeing her could tell that she had been through a lot. Few, if any, could fathom how much.
His peripheral vision took in Korra's parents. Tonraq sat at Korra's right hand, cradling it gently, yet with a determination that bordered on fierceness. He had manned a lonely vigil since their return. Not for lack of company, but for lack of the notice he gave to anyone else. Even as the others made preparations for life to return to some kind of normalcy, yet he waited. Even though the healers told him that Korra was through the worst of it, yet he waited.
Tenzin was not surprised to see Senna at the other side of the bed. When she first arrived at Air Temple Island, she had been just as much a fixture at Korra's side. She would fetch water and towels and anything that might make her child's suffering a bit less. But as Korra settled in, and the only thing they could do was wait, Senna began to try to help Pema and the Acolytes around the compound. Cooking meals, cleaning... But in any spare moment, she would slip away, and they would find her later, at her daughter's bedside. They didn't mention it, and though they still tried to involve her when she joined them, they understood.
Tenzin was struck by her stance. Tonraq sat bowed over the side of Korra's bed, knees touching her sheets and her hand in his, eyes staring as if he could heal her with his will (and if such a thing were possible, Tenzin could believe it would happen here). In contrast, Senna stood, a foot or two away from Korra. Tenzin looked at her expression, and was reminded of the statues of Air Nomad women, carved and impassive. Yet there was a weight of grief there too, as if her facial muscles had shut down from the strain of trying to communicate her grief. She seemed to be forcing herself to witness, even though she knew there was nothing she could do.
The weight in the room was heavy, almost oppressive. Intruding on this scene felt like an unacceptable invasion. Korra's friends and well wishers had all come to see her, but now found other ways to deal with their grief. Now only the occasional visitor and the nurses came, not out of neglect, but consideration.
Tenzin felt it. It washed over him, and he couldn't fight it. He knew how he himself would react. Yet he pressed on. Not knowing any better how to interject, he spoke out. “Senna, Tonraq.” They both blinked and turned to him, as if woken from sleep. Then Tonraq returned to his watch. Senna cast a glance back to her daughter, but then pushed herself to engage with him.
“Hello, Tonraq, it's good to see you.” Senna glanced at the tray of food in his hands. “Oh, these are for us? Thank you, and thank Pema for us.” She sighed, smiling a wan smile. “She has been so good to us. You all have...” Tenzin could see her struggling to make niceties, as if they were a foreign language that she barely remembered, her voice trailing off at the end. She took the tray from him and walked around to where Tonraq sat, setting it on a nearby table. Her task accomplished, she returned to where Tenzin stood near the door, dutifully entertaining his presence.
He looked past her at Korra. “Any signs?” he asked, not having anything else to add, but not feeling like he should leave just yet.
Senna forced a wispy laugh, but it left her eyes as cold as before. “Yes. Sometimes she tosses fitfully. Sometimes she talks in her sleep, or even tears fall from her eyes. We watch carefully, but she doesn't wake yet.” Tenzin's stomach fell a few inches at the barely checked agony in her voice.
He had to do something. He wanted to put his hand on Tonraq's shoulder, but the man seemed like a bow strung too tight. So instead he gave Senna a hug, whispering some heartfelt condolence that still felt hollow. She responded with verbal gratitude, but it also felt empty. She raised one arm to return the hug, while her face continued to portray stone.
Tenzin felt bewildered. He knew that there wasn't a solution here, that there wasn't anything he could say that would fix this, but it seemed so wrong to leave them like this. He tried to think of something to say, but his mind was blank. The words wouldn't order themselves, and all he knew was a vast desire to say something coming over him as from an outside force. So he opened his mouth, without any idea of what he was going to say.
“I...Sometimes...We wish...” He stumbled through his words, feeling embarrassed, yet not able to stop. Senna patiently watched him, as you would wait for a child to make their point. There was no physical sign from Tonraq.
“I often find...that we wish...that...we could suffer...for our loved ones.” He almost stammers, but as he continues, he begins to feel more confident. “We wish that by our pain, we could lighten their load.” Tenzin could sense his own mind racing to supply a reassurance that this desire was normal and acceptable, but the force compelling him to speak wouldn't allow him to second guess it. Senna was staring openly at him now. Tonraq still hadn't moved, but Tenzin could feel, rather than see, that he was listening.
“Unfortunately for us, that is not the case.” Tenzin inwardly groaned. So then what was the point of that whole bit? But before he can think, his mouth continues. “Yet...” And here he lost the thread for a moment. Suddenly humbled, he besought whatever force, that had led him to speak, to not abandon him now, because his mortal, finite words were not enough.
“Yet if we cannot take their burden, at least we can suffer with them, that they may know that they didn't suffer alone, or in vain.” Once again, he mentally questioned that statement. It wasn't that he disagreed with it, but more that he couldn't ever remember having arrived at that conclusion.
Tears now fell openly down Senna's face, and she risked a glance to her side where Tonraq sat and Korra lay. Tonraq still hadn't moved from his position, but he seems to be shuddering, or hiccuping. Tenzin couldn't take the time he wanted to ascertain which, because he was urged onward.
“Korra loves you,” and here Senna broke down into audible sobs. Tonraq was now making noise, and Tenzin now recognized that he was also crying. “She was willing to die to save the Air Nation.” Here Tenzin choked up, but he soldiered on. “She has done well, and she will awaken.” He couldn't tell if this was some truth, or just what he wanted to believe, but it resonated with such force that he couldn't resist it.
“The world still needs its Avatar” the force pushed his voice onward, and both Senna and Tonraq were watching him now. His thoughts were so scrambled by this point that he couldn't even wonder where these words were coming from. The only thought that remained was that he must convey them. And just as he submitted to the force, it left him. He could feel it almost as if it were the air, whooshing out of the room. And like the last bit of air leaving a bag, one last statement, quietly. “So worry not, my friends, but believe. You will have your daughter again.”
Tenzin blinked. He didn't know what had just happened, didn't know what had came over him, but he knew it was real. He cast his eyes over to Senna and Tonraq, and they were quietly sobbing. He could barely remember what he said, and it was vanishing like a dream. He hoped that he hadn't put his foot in his mouth, but even though he can't remember the specifics, he felt assured that he had spoken well. That it was what Korra's parents had needed to hear.
Senna approached him, returning in earnest the hug he had offered earlier. “Thank you,” she whispers fiercely. She repeats herself, softer this time. “Thank you.” She went over to her husband, and put her hands on his shoulders.
Tonraq wiped his eyes. “Thank you, Tenzin, Thank you.” His voice carried none of the force that Tenzin was accustomed to from him, but it did have all of its warmth. Neither of them said anything else, and Tenzin's mind wondered at what he had experienced. But another part of him was calm.
I think we are all through the worst of it.
The next day, Korra woke up.