Look at me go, cranking out chapters for you guys. Hasook is really speaking to me with this. Really, though, I'm not completely satisfied with how this chapter turned out. But I think it's just one of those tricky chapters that will never be just right, and at least the next chapter will be lots of fun. I'm also the only one who's beta'd this, and I'm running on four hours of sleep, so I hope you can forgive any mistakes.
Special thanks to XxShyxX, once again, for her love of Hasorra and for putting up with my craziness. Now on with the show!
"Hasook, come look!"
Korra's excited shout drew his attention from the borrowed book he was reading and, repressing one of his usual sighs, he rose and walked to where she stood at the front railing, looking out over the deck below. She looked at him with her bright eyes and the total elation churning in them was undeniable.
"What is it?"
And they were. Straight ahead of them – as well as around them, he was beginning to notice – was no longer only the sapphire of the ocean, but a stark expanse of pristine ice and snow. He could see glaciers and mountains looming on the distant horizon and the further they went the more he could see his breath collect in a thin mist just past his lips. How long had they been in the South Pole? Surely he would have noticed the drop in temperature ages ago.
I'm noticing now, he thought irritably. Winter in Republic City was cold, sure, but not like this. Here, in the antarctic tundra, he could feel the cold wrap around him and sink deep into his bones; icy fingers curling around his heart and gripping tightly. He shivered once, violently, and clenched his teeth tightly to keep them from chattering. I'll have to get furs when we dock near her village.
It was another two hours before they made port, during which time Hasook had retreated to his shared room with Korra where there was at least a stove for warmth. He had actually dozed off after awhile, and awoke to Korra tugging on his hair. He swatted at her and stretched – more than a few joints cracking obnoxiously – before helping her collect their packed bags and heading down to the deck.
General Iroh was waiting for them. "It was a pleasure to have you both aboard my ship. I won't being seeing you until the spring, so until then, farewell Avatar and friend."
They returned the sentiments and Korra pressed an uncharacteristically sweet kiss to his cheek before thanking him again and setting off down the gangplank. When they reached the harbor, Hasook immediately caught sight of three adults in blue and white robes. White Lotus members, perhaps? His suspicion was confirmed when they approached Korra and bowed deeply.
"Avatar Korra," said the middle Lotus. He was an elderly man with steel gray hair. "The Order of the White Lotus welcomes you back to the South Pole."
"Missed you, too, Pops," Korra grinned, and the man looked like he was trying to repress an exasperated sigh. Another Lotus, the youngest of them, spoke up.
"Your family eagerly awaits your arrival, young Avatar."
Korra brightened at the mention of her parents. "Good to know you guys aren't going to lock me back up in that compound. And how many times do I have to tell you to all me by my name, Howl?"
The Lotus, Howl, retained a neutral countenance, but his brown eyes were smiling. He said nothing more, though, and the older man spoke again.
"Come, we can't dally around this harbor all day. There is a cargo vehicle that will take us to your village, where you and your friend will be deposited."
"What, you guys don't want to stick around?"
Korra pouted. "Gee, I feel loved. You guys didn't miss me at all?"
"I missed you," Howl said diplomatically. Korra beamed at him. "Of course you did. I missed you, too. All of you, actually, unpleasant as you can be."
The older man sighed and walked away, presumably toward the cargo vehicle. Howl sighed. "This way, you two."
"I wish I could have brought Naga with me." Korra frowned. "So much better than a truck."
"Who is Naga?"
"My polar bear dog. Her back leg is lame and she isn't fit to travel."
Hasook offered a murmured condolence and looked up to see the Lotus members waiting for them by the cargo truck. It was ugly thing, green and bulky. Hasook suspected the tires would locate and hit every rut and pothole from the harbor to the village.
They tossed their things in the back of the vehicle and climbed in, piling up in the cargo hold. Korra was bouncing in her seat with excitement and while Hasook was content to wait out the ride to the village, he was inwardly just as thrilled. Korra was tugging on his hair again, though, looking up at him with her too-blue eyes. He grunted a noncommittal sound of acknowledgment and she spoke.
"I can't wait for you to see the village and meet my parents, and my friends if they're still there. And I really want to meet your brother. Eska, right? Maybe we could all go penguin sledding."
"What?" What in La's name was penguin sledding? Probably exactly what it sounded like, he thought, but it sounded ludicrous. "What is penguin sledding?"
Korra stared at him. "You've never been penguin sledding?"
"I've never even seen a penguin. Never been outside the city, remember?"
"Oh, Hasook. You don't know what you've been missing." She shook her head and clucked her tongue. And then proceeded to launch into a spiel about otter-penguins and all of their fabulous qualities and cuteness and little noises. How to befriend them and bribe them with tiny fish. All the best tricks and places to sled. The White Lotus members sighed in a long-winded fashion, suggesting that they were used to Korra's tangents.
Hasook merely smiled and settled in for the remainder of the drive.
Hasook watched as Korra threw her bags into the snow and bolted for the couple standing outside of a modest igloo home. The man – or bear, he was so large – caught her easily in his arms and seemingly crushed her to him. The woman pulled Korra away after a moment and wrapped her slender arms around Korra's neck.
"I've missed you guys so much," Korra sighed, stepping back and looking at her parents warmly. "I want you to meet someone."
Hasook, who had been standing off to side, awkward and uncomfortable, suddenly found himself being snatched forward and dragged to the igloo. The rest of Korra's bags, and his own, fell into a heap in the snow around him. Korra still gripped his hand.
"Guys, this is my friend Hasook." Korra beamed as though she were proud to introduce him. "He was a probender, too."
"It's lovely to meet you Hasook," her mother greeted, all warm eyes and a smiling face. "I'm Senna. This is my husband, Tonraq."
"I know," he said as he and Tonraq gripped one anothers' forearms. "My parents told me stories about you two when I was younger."
"Atka?" Tonraq asked, smiling fondly. Hasook nodded. "He was an extraordinary man, and my best friend. You look just like him, you know."
"It's nice to hear someone say that. Do you know where my brother is?"
"Probably out behind the village waterbending with some of the other kids," Senna answered. "Why don't you bring your things inside and get settled while I fetch him? Then we can have supper."
While Senna bustled off to wherever Eska was, Tonraq took all of Korra's bags into the igloo and Hasook followed him inside. The interior was brightly lit by a fire and blessedly warm. There were tribal relics hung on the walls – a warrior's headdress, a shield, a painting – and it was probably the coziest place he'd ever entered. And he didn't even feel like he was intruding. He noted that there were a few smaller rooms off to various sides and followed Tonraq down one of the two on the right.
It was a small bedchamber, a space sufficient enough for sleeping and storing his luggage. He took in a second bed of furs to one side and assumed that Eska had been staying with Korra's parents and that this pile was where he had slept. But when Tonraq placed Korra's bags on top of it, Hasook stood corrected.
"This is Korra's room." It wasn't a question.
Tonraq nodded. "The room next to this one is Senna's and mine – this is the only place we can put you, so sorry if it makes you uncomfortable."
Hasook didn't feel the need to enlighten Korra's father on their sleeping arrangements aboard The Lady Ursa. He'd like to keep his face the way it was. "It's not a problem. I just assumed Eska had been staying here."
"No, he's been with living with Elder Kanut on the other side of the village."
"How has he been? Has he been practicing his bending, keeping out of trouble?" He couldn't help the flood of paternal concern that overtook him. He hadn't seen his brother in almost a month – two, counting the voyage to the South Pole – and he had never gone so long without being with Eska.
Tonraq chuckled. "He's fine. Healthy, active, respectful to the elders, good with the little ones. Aside from a few practical jokes, he hasn't been one bit of trouble."
Hearing that did Hasook several worlds of good and he tossed his bags onto his own pile of furs. After he rolled his head to relieve some of the soreness in his neck, he became aware of Korra's absence.
Tonraq shrugged. "La only knows. My guess would be the center of the village, seeing everyone again. Why don't you go bring her in for supper?"
"Alright," Hasook mumbled, making his way back out into the startling cold. He trudged passed igloos similar to Korra's, but they seemed to be empty. When he got to what must have been the center of the village, he saw that Korra was surrounded by a crowd of people.
They're praising her, he realized. It made sense; Korra was an Avatar from the Southern Water Tribe, a personal hometown hero to her native people. Little children danced around her, tugging on her pants; young men eyed her appreciatively. He found that this last part bothered him considerably, and promptly decided not to dwell on that train of thought. Korra spotted him and pushed her way through the drove.
"There you are," she said, laughing.
"There you are," he returned, finding her laughter infectious. He smiled. "Tonraq sent me to get you for dinner."
Korra nodded and waved goodbye to her adoring fans. Everyone was disappointed but Korra promised to see them all again at the festival that night.
"Festival?" Hasook asked as they walked back to her parents' igloo.
"Not really a festival, but the people are throwing a celebration in honor of my saving Republic City and coming home. Kind of like a welcoming party."
"Way better than the party Tarrlok threw me," she chuckled.
The smell of cooking food met them when they entered the igloo, and the first thing Hasook saw was a younger boy sitting by the fire. When the boy looked up and their eyes met, gray on gray, each of them broke into a smile.
One moment Eska was on the floor; the next he was wrapping Hasook in a death grip. He returned the embrace, smiling down at his little brother's dreadlocked head. It was good to see him again, and know for himself that he was safe and well.
"Eska. Keeping out of trouble?"
Eska stepped back and snorted. "You're kidding. Of course I haven't."
Hasook rolled his eyes, but couldn't keep the smile off his face. Eska was by far the more gregarious and amicable of the two of them. Having him away in the South was like having part of himself away in the South. He hadn't been complete.
"So, this is Eska?" Korra had been standing by as patiently as she could while the brothers had their reunion, but she was dying to meet the younger waterbender.
Eska looked at her with bright eyes. "Yeah, and you're Avatar Korra, right? Hasook, you didn't tell me you were dating the Avatar!"
I'm going to have a serious talk with the Spirits later on, Hasook vowed, pinching the bridge of his nose in exasperation. "We're not dating, Eska. We're not getting married, or moving to a magic castle, or having waterbender babies -"
"Dude, what are you talking about?" Eska was staring at him with raised black brows, trying not to laugh.
"Don't worry about it, kiddo," Korra interceded smoothly. "Just a few inside jokes with some airbenders. It's nice to meet you."
The three of them talked on for a while more, telling stories about this, and sharing opinions on that. Korra gave a few details about her fight with Amon, but nothing too personal. She told them of her experience with the Avatar State, and the boys shared what stories they could. Eska's first time penguin-sledding – Korra was delighted by this – and his recent waterbending achievements. It was in the middle of his recount of a sparring match with an older boy that Senna poked her head in the room and called them to supper.
A meal of hot seaweed noodles and stewed sea prunes was in order, and after they sent a prayer to the Spirits they dug in happily. There was a distinctly content atmosphere around the low table, a lot of smiles and laughter and Korra catching up with her parents. Hasook realized, once it was presented to him, how much he had missed this; the warmth and intimacy that connected a family, even through a simple dinner. A pang went trough his chest that he neither ignored nor wallowed in.
He didn't have time to do so anyway. Korra, in her infinite poise and grace, had been waving her chopsticks around to punctuate whatever she was saying, and the sopping sea prune that she had been holding suddenly escaped and smacked him right in the eye. It slid down his face, leaving a trail of purple juice in its wake. He looked at her – from the eye was wasn't squinted to keep out the juice – and found that her fist was jammed into her mouth to keep the laughter in. Her shoulders shook with the effort and her eyes watered slightly. Everyone else was hiding their smiles.
Well, Miss Avatar, two can play at that.
As discreetly as he could, Hasook bent the juice from her bowl of prunes splashed it up into her face. Of course, instead of being upset, it was the push that sent her over the edge and soon she was sprawled out in floor, struggling to breath around her laughter. Feeling a bit triumphant, and even letting out a nice laugh of his own, Hasook wiped his face off and smiled down at her. Her laughter was high and clear, and just watching her made him want to laugh, too. When it became too much, he coughed out a bark of laughter that Eska picked up on; then Senna and Tonraq. Within seconds the igloo was filled with the raucous sound.
Hasook watched, taking everything in with new eyes. He saw his brother, black dreads swinging back and forth. Senna was leaning on Tonraq, chortling quietly to herself. Her husband was wiping tears from his eyes. And he saw Korra. The fire cast golden light on her features, her eyes aflame on her face like a burning sea. Her smile was radiant and when in the past month had he begun to think of her this way? She met his eyes and another laugh fell from her lips. A warm feeling wriggled its way into him and settled comfortably.
Sitting in the midst of such mirth and companionship, knowing that there were still many things in store, Hasook wondered what else the night would bring.
Not much, but there it is. I hope you guys enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing. Once again if you have any suggestions or requests just drop them in with your review.
Now, I'm going to take a much needed nap.