Well, all I can say about this oneshot is that I think it's utter crap and I can't believe I'm even putting this up on here. But I promised lovelydangerousdear that I would write this, so I did. Honestly, I feel like everything about this is forced and choppy - there's a lot of rambling and I feel that the plot isn't linear. It just seems to be all over the place, and the dialogue leaves much to be desired. You have been warned.

That said, this is the follow-up to Chasing Ghosts, my previous Korroh oneshot. Either one can stand alone, though. After this, I plan to start a series of Korroh oneshots and drabbles, so be on the lookout for that in the near future. Now, lovelydangerousdear, you owe me a smutshot, and I will collect. To teh rest of you, I hope you can enjoy this. And please, if any of you have any ideas or constructive criticism on how to help improve this oneshot - do not hesitate to share it!






It was a most elegant affair. There were lilies and roses pinned to the ends of every row of chairs; much lace and gossamer. Hundreds of people were packed shoulder to shoulder in the gardens behind the Sato mansion, waiting for the bride to make her appearance. All around him there was laughter; excited whispers and eager glances. Iroh wanted to be somewhere else. Anywhere else but where he was now; waiting for the woman he loved to come out and marry someone else.

The only comfort he had – and it was a bittersweet comfort at that – was that he was not alone in his misery. The Avatar was seated next to him, her back rigid with tension, the corners of her eyes pulled tight. Their blue color was dulled that day and she looked so tired. He could relate, having hardly slept the past few months. The only shelter he'd had from this waking nightmare were the nights he'd spent with Korra, wrapped up in her arms and sharing dismal comforts; commiserating with one another. He thanked Agni that he had been blessed with Korra.

Her fists were clenched tight, bunching and wrinkling the satin of her gray gown. He reached down and covered one of those hands with his own, feeling her relax slightly. His own chest felt painfully tight, like some invisible force was bearing down on him, piling on pressure pound by pound until it weighed a ton. He felt Korra place her other hand over his, soft fingers stroking his knuckles soothingly, and he remembered to breathe – long, deep inhales and exhales that slowly eased the discomfort. Suddenly his decision to not become utterly intoxicated before coming to the ceremony seemed a foolish idea. Being drunk now would have meant a hard time remembering the wedding later.

He sighed wearily and tightened his hand over Korra's. They would need each other tonight.

When the first strains of the organ spilled over the crowd, efficiently cutting through the din of voices, Iroh tensed. He stood when everyone else did, finding some amusement in watching Ikki skip down the aisle, throwing orange blossoms everywhere. When she had taken her seat with her siblings, the music changed and the crowd seemed to collectively hold its breath. Korra's fingers twined with his and Iroh forced himself not to look back.

Asami reached the makeshift altar and faced Mako, both of them smiling stupidly at each other. They were shining, glowing brightly from the inside out and their love was like a thick heat, draping over everything like a blanket and suffocating him. She was achingly beautiful, a stunning vision in white lace and chiffon. Her inky hair was knotted elegantly at the nape of her neck, wispy curls escaping here and there. Her veil was adorned with pearls and her green eyes sparkled. She was radiant. She was not his.

Iroh blocked out the words of their wedding vows as they were exchanged; ignored the cheering of the guests when they kissed. Instead, he looked to Korra, whose eyes were shut tightly, crinkling, trying to pretend she hadn't just seen or heard any of the past half hour. He could see the tears shimmering along the crease where her eyelids met, and bent to press a comforting kiss to her temple. She leaned into him, and he wrapped an arm around her waist, welcoming her, wanting her as close as possible.

Mako swept Asami up into his arms, both of them laughing, and carried her back inside to begin the reception. The rest of the crowd followed, and Iroh ignored the looks of pity that came from the select few people who were aware of the underlying situation. He was glad Korra's eyes were closed – if she saw even one of the looks people were giving them, she would lose it for certain.

When it was only the two of them, Iroh placed her hard in the crook of his elbow and lead her into the reception hall to begin what was sure to be the worst night of their lives.






He hadn't been wrong. The strains of violin and cello snaked their way through the small crowd of dancers, at the center of which were Mako and Asami. They swayed gently from side to side, occasionally spinning around softly. Each time, her veil and voluminous skirts would fan out beautifully, her face would alight with her smile. A smile that was not meant for him.

Carefully, Iroh sipped from his glass of ice wine – fire whiskey would not do tonight, he wanted go numb and freeze out his wounded feelings, not set them ablaze – unable to cease following their movements. Since he wasn't the only one watching them – it was their night, after all – Iroh knew no one was paying him any special attention. The reception had been in full swing for the past three hours and he had long since finished with idle small talk and false compliments paid to pretentious politicians and socialites whose names he couldn't care to remember. He wished Korra were seated him with him, but as the Avatar she would likely be caught up with one stuffy aristocrat or another the entire evening. Pity.

The ice wine was blessedly cool on his tongue, slowly creeping down his throat and spreading through his chest to his lungs like rivulets of fragile ice. He inhaled deeply and let the breath out as a sigh through his nose. Three and a half hours of pure agony, and he no longer had the will to be hurt. He simply wanted to leave. He wanted to take Korra home and lose himself in her until he knew nothing else – not the pain, or the anger, or the loneliness. This last was slowly fading, though, thanks to Korra and he was grateful all over again for her presence in his life.

He saw her not ten feet away talking with one of the nonbending council members, a middle-aged woman with soft eyes. He swallowed the last of his wine in a single frigid gulp and stalked toward her. Both women looked up at his approach and he affected his usual air of cool politeness.

"Ladies," he intoned. "My apologies, Councilman. Might I speak with the Avatar?"

"Of course, General." The woman uttered her goodbyes and bustled off to a group of older gentlemen.

Iroh turned his eyes to Korra, who looked like she was dangerously close to unraveling and falling to pieces right before him. "Please tell me you are ready to leave this place."

She looked like she might cry with relief. "I thought you'd never ask."

She took his arm when he offered it and he lead them to a large table where the newlyweds where seated, surrounded by friends from the probending circuit and Asami's social scene. Iroh informed them of their retirement for the evening, and there were several agonizing minutes of goodbyes and hugs and well-wishes. Iroh caught Bolin's sympathetic, understanding gaze and managed a small nod, already feeling sick at the pit of his stomach. When he and Korra were finally able to tear themselves away and escape outside, Iroh sighed in relief.

Within the next thirty minutes, he had called a cab for them after walking a block back into the main part of town and was now unlocking the door to the apartment he had been renting for the past year and a half. Reinstating peace and balance was a difficult task, but he had been more than happy to aid the Avatar when she had asked him. The apartment wasn't extravagant, but it was far from quaint. Korra was already kicking her heels off and falling back into the plush couch, sinking down into the cushions with a loaded sigh. Iroh shed his boots and formal jacket, tossing it over the back of his reading chair. He raised Korra's torso enough so that he could seat himself beneath her, resettling her head in his lap.

He ran long fingers through her soft hair, taking care to be gentle when he removed the pins that had held her waves in place. She looked beautiful, truly. Rich gray satin over caramel skin, cheeks flushed from the activity of the evening – and probably more than a few shots of fire whiskey. Her full lips were parted slightly, eyes closed so that her long lashes brushed over her cheekbones. His fingers trailed from her hair to trace light, almost whimsical patterns over her face. Her lips quirked up into an almost-smile.

"Why can't it just be enough," she murmured. "that he's happy with her? Why can't I just be satisfied with that?"

He understood that perfectly. "You want to be the one who makes him happy, and to be happy with him yourself."

"It seems pretty selfish, doesn't it?" She laughed quietly, humorlessly.

"Perhaps," he conceded. "But not so badly. There is nothing wrong with loving a person, and being hurt when they don't love you back."

"I know you're right. But the more I think about it, the more I hurt, and the more I feel awful for not just being happy for him. I mean, Asami's a really good person."

Iroh nodded. "And Mako is not so terrible as I presumed. He has character and ideals. He has honor; I know he will take care of her."

Just as I would have taken care of her, he thought, somewhat bitterly. There was silence then, but he knew Korra had something to say. He waited patiently and was not disappointed.

"I wanted him to take care of me."

Her tears were quiet; there was no sniffling or sobbing. Just streaks of saltwater that stained her pink cheeks. There was a slight tremor in her shoulders, a scant shuddering of her body. Iroh gathered her up to his chest, using one hand to stroke her back soothingly and the other to wipe away each tear as it fell. When it seemed she had run out of them, he hooked a finger beneath her chin and tilted her head back to face him. He took one look at her wounded blue eyes and claimed her lips in an achingly gentle kiss.

When they parted, he rested his forehead against hers, focusing on her soft breaths and her slim fingers against his cheek. His arms tightened around her in something like protectiveness. They shared the same pain and struggled with the same selfishness and Iroh could not help but feel that they had been bound together somehow by this. He was so immensely thankful that, despite their unfortunate and painful circumstances, the Spirits had at least brought them to each other – and he did not delude himself into thinking he did not need Korra, and that she did not need him. Without each other, they most likely would have been empty and lifeless behind their social personas – the Avatar and the General of the United Forces.

He felt Korra settled closer into him, her fingers curling into the fabric of his shirt as she released a shaky breath. It did strange things to him, seeing her so low and vulnerable. From the moment he had met her, Iroh could see how strong and determined and powerful Korra was – truly a sight to behold. It was often hard for him to remember that she was still a young woman, with her own thoughts and wants and needs and feelings. A young woman whose heart was so easily beaten by those closest to her. Like all other things in her life, Korra felt emotions without abandon, and while that was something he greatly admired about her, he knew she was now paying the price for it.

Korra shifted again, pulling back to look him in the eyes. "Thank you," she mumbled. Iroh had the sense that she was thanking him for much more than just holding her while she cried, and he could relate. He owed her so much...

"You're welcome," he replied, gently stroking his thumb over her cheek bone.

"I'm not sure where I'd be right now without you."

He smirked. "Most likely the same place I would have been without you."

The ghost of a smile flickered across her face, briefly, and when she pressed her lips to his he responded without hesitation. The kiss was soft, unhurried; a gesture of thanks and comfort, which was something they both needed. Iroh knew he could have easily slipped her gown off her and she would not have resisted, and briefly he entertained the notion. They remained as they were, though – twined together on his sofa, trading lingering kisses and slow touches, content to just be and forget about the entire evening. It was the closest he had come to peace in months.

When he brushed a kiss against her forehead and Korra muttered something about the Spirits giving him to her, he was reminded of the similar thoughts he'd had earlier. Not for the first time, Iroh wondered if perhaps that had been their plan all along.