The South Pole is beautiful, as it always is, and Korra loves her parents’ company, but she always misses Asami’s when she comes here alone. There’s a part of her that feels hollowed out, a hole in her heart waiting to be filled.
(“I’ll wait for you,” she’d said before she left, lips brushing Asami’s jaw. “It’s just a couple of weeks, and then you can come too.”
"No way," Asami had said, her smile a hidden thing felt more than seen, pressed to the spot just below Korra’s ear. "And let me butting heads with Varrick get between you and some time with your parents? Not a chance. We’ll see each other soon.")
It’s been three weeks, and with Asami due any day now, she wants to find something to welcome her—something to show that she’s thought about her all this time. Her mom is helpful, but nothing fits, or maybe Korra just can’t focus; her attention flits from one trinket to the next without settling. Nothing touches that place in her gut or the empty space in her chest; nothing is right.
Until one afternoon when Korra takes Naga out for a fleet-footed ride to work off the shakiness that sometimes creeps up on Korra when she’s still for too long. Something catches Naga’s attention, something outside of Korra’s perception, so she lets her friend have her lead.
It’s not until they stop and the wind is no longer beating past Korra’s ears that she hears it: tiny, frozen cries, like Rohan used to make when he was sick and too tired to really raise a fuss. She hops off Naga’s back and follows her on foot, until Naga stops and snuffles in the direction of a pile of snow and ice that’s tumbled to make a cold little hollow.
"Oh," Korra says quietly once she’s down on hands and knees to peer into the hole. Three pairs of bright black eyes stare sadly back.
It’s a litter of polar bear puppies, abandoned to the cold.
She brings them home to the shock of everyone. The Avatar having her own polar bear dog was tolerated with fond awe; she’s the Avatar, and it’s only to be expected that her animal guide should be as grand and impossible as her destiny. But there’s only one of her; and three puppies makes for four dogs.
"Korra, what are we supposed to do with three polar bear dogs?" Tonraq asks patiently as Korra runs warm water into a tub.
"I don’t know!" She’s too worried about getting them well to be patient with questions she doesn’t have answers to. "Feed them. Raise them. Not let them die in the snow."
"Sorry." Immediately, she feels contrite. "I’ll figure something out."
Her dad’s hand settles on her shoulder, heavy and warm, and he gives it a solid squeeze. “You have a good heart, Korra.”
"…Yeah," is all she mumbles, and turns to scoop up the first puppy.
Katara comes to help, when she hears the news. Nursing wild animals back to health is a different sort of challenge from teaching a grown woman how to walk again, but Katara is Katara, and she never turns her back on anyone who needs her, regardless of species.
"If it means anything, Aang would approve," Katara says as she inspects one of the pups for injuries.
"It does," Korra says, and tries not to dwell too much on that familiar, faded feeling that she let Katara down by losing her connection to her past lives. Instead she smiles. "Thanks."
"Soooo, I kind of did something ridiculous," Korra tells Asami breathless when she arrives, once she’s stopped kissing her.
"Okay." Asami is unphased; Korra can see the thought that follows in her mind: That’s nothing new. Korra kind of loves her for that. “What happened?”
"This is what happened," Korra says, and opens the door to the west garden.
They’ve grown since Korra found them, thanks to time and tender care, both in size and in energy. One of the pups is wrestling with another against Naga’s side, but the third smells Korra’s approach and pads eagerly in their direction in the awkward way that all babies have.
”Oh,” Asami says, voice a little awed, when the pup reaches her and presses its dark snout to her shiny boot. She kneels down to meet it, smiling widely; the pup shifts to sniff at her proffered hand, and then heaves up to put its paws on her knees and nose at her hair. Asami trembles in an effort to keep upright through her suppressed laughter.
The sight makes Korra’s heart do a flip-flop.
Asami picks up the pup and looks up to Korra with a grin. “I leave you alone for a couple of weeks and you and Naga have babies. What’s up with that?”
Korra’s heart abandons flip-flops in favor of swelling up to fill her like a balloon. That empty feeling is gone.
She grins back, and she probably looks a bit like a loser, but she can’t really care. “We do what we do.”