Chapter 1: No Way Out
There is no other way out. They’re trapped. Mako has to take the shot or else everything the Avatar’s fought for is gone. Her dreams, her ambitions—all ruined with the fell stroke of a madman’s blade. And all that Korra can think of is this—not this—it can’t end this way; it can’t end at the hands of a merciless tyrant—
She strains against her bonds and the blade pressed to her throat digs in deeper, a thin rivulet of blood escapes and trails down her neck. Amon’s grip on her tightens and he holds her close. Head tilted at an uncomfortable angle, Korra’s blue eyes seek golden-yellow. She searches Mako’s face, watching it contort in anger and pain—or maybe it’s fear. He and Bolin have come all this way, fighting through an army just to get to her, and Mako seems almost paralysed, lightning crackling in his palms.
“Dammit, Mako!” she cries, struggling against Amon. “Take the shot!”
It’s either kill Amon or wait until the rest of his men show up and take them all down. Bolin’s picking off the stragglers, howling back at them to get the fuck out because he can’t hold the “bad guys” off much longer. There’s blood on his clothes, and Korra wonders if it’s his. Mako, on the other hand, is completely covered in blood—the thick red liquid is smeared across his cheeks like tribal war paint. There’s so much of it; it’s never bothered her before, but—oh gods—it’s never been Mako’s blood. He’s taken so many knives for her—
One of the Equalists tears open Bolin’s arm with a shuriken and he roars: "Mako!"
“Do it!” Korra screams, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Do it now, now, now—”
Korra bolts awake, her shirt soaked through at the back with sweat. How long has she been out? Minutes, hours, days, weeks? Where is she? Are Mako and Bolin okay? Is Amon dead?
Two strong hands are suddenly on her shoulders, pressing her down. She struggles, but then the earth rises up to meet her and swallows her, sucking her body back down to the ground. Green eyes meet blue.
He’s smiling down at her with Pabu on his shoulder. He places the ferret on the ground and it sniffs at Korra’s face, nudging her cheek with a gentle headbutt.
“What happened?” she croaks, reaching out to pat Pabu on the head.
“You were knocked unconscious,” Bolin answers glibly, pulling the covers up to her chin. “You’ve been out for two days now. You were burning up pretty bad so I brought you outside for some fresh air. Your fever’s broken, but you need to take it easy.”
Korra ignores his advice and sits up, bringing a hand to her head. It feels light, like someone pumped air into her ear. She’s dizzy and nauseated. Suddenly, she remembers what happened: Amon had held her captive and Mako was about to report his lightning when her whole world went dark.
“Amon, where is he?”
She glances around furtively and sees that they are at camp somewhere outside the city limits near the mountains. The stars are twinkling brightly above her and the cool air tickles her skin. Relaxing momentarily, she lets herself slump back into Bolin, who is trying to steady her from behind.
“He escaped after Mako tried to hit him with lightning.”
“Tried?” Korra frowns. “He missed?”
Bolin lets out a frustrated sigh. “Korra, Amon was holding you as a shield in front of him. Mako couldn’t take the shot without hitting you too. In fact, that’s why you’re hurt.” She turns to look up at him. “You absorbed some of the electricity.”
“Yeah, well, I’m fine now,” she says, bringing her fingers to her temple.
He snorts. “Sure you are.”
Korra gives him an evil glare and then her eyes suddenly widen in shock and remembrance.
“Mako! Where’s Mako? Is he okay?”
“He’s resting.” Bolin points to a tent several feet away. “I had to carry the both of you back here.” A mirthless grin angles across his lips. “He’s—he’s lost a lot of blood.”
Korra sweeps her eyes across the camp until they settle on Mako’s tent. She struggles to get to her feet but her legs just won’t allow it. They give out and she falls back down on her ass.
“How’s he doing?”
“Okay.” Bolin shrugs and rises, fetching her a waterskin. “I found a Waterbender in the city—an old friend of Mako’s. She’s in there with him right now.”
Korra furrows her brow and stares long and hard at the tent. “Oh.”
“She looked in on you, too,” he adds, offering her a bowl of rice. “She said you’ll be fine in a few days, especially since your fever broke.”
Korra nods and clears her throat, taking the bowl of rice from Bolin. Her eyes are still trained on Mako’s tent, looking for signs of movement.
Bolin is silent, so silent that Korra turns her attention away from the tent to look up at him, nudging him gently.
“I’m not sure,” he admits, his voice thick with emotion. “Asami says he’ll make it, but he might not be able to bend for a while.”
Korra looks down at her plate and is no longer hungry. She shakes her head, quelling the feelings that rise in her chest. There’s no use in trying to understand them—not now.
“I still don’t understand why it took him so long to take the shot,” she whispers, her voice less strong than she had hoped.
“Seriously?” Bolin asks with that familiar lightness to his tone, as he grabs his own bowl of rice and begins to eat. “Honestly, Korra, sometimes I think you’re even more clueless than he is.”
Chapter 2: Agony
Part II of No Way Out arc.
Korra wakes to the sterile smell of her own sickness and the harsh sunlight that filters in through thin fabric of the tent. It stings her eyes but it’s a welcome sort of pain—even the dull ache throbbing in her chest with every heartbeat feels like the pulsing of relief. At the back of her mind a voice niggles at her, reminding her why she’s in pain and how she’s even alive. She shoves the voice back down, hides it, refusing to listen. Another worry for another day.
It’s only been a week since they escaped, but those days between seem to have stretched out, linear and predictable, but jarring like shards of glass beneath her feet. Time has become cold, a ruthless mistress that shows no mercy, and she can only pray that Mako will be okay.
He hasn’t said a word to her since he woke up. Bolin says it’s the pain, but Korra knows that it’s not the pain that bothers his big brother. In fact, Mako avoids the subject of his injuries like the plague, and if Korra knows him at all by now, then he’s brooding about how this is all his fault—how he let her get hurt. She knows this because these are the questions she’s asked herself. But how can she convince him that he’s blameless? How can she tell him that she’s sorry?
Outside, Korra can hear a grunt followed by a few choice expletives. She opens the flap to see Mako crawling out of his tent. His entire torso is covered with bandages and his right arm is bound to his chest in a sling. That niggling voice at the back of her mind prompts her to go to help him, but the other voices—pride and shame—tell her to stay, to not get involved. But she’s already involved.
“Hey,” she calls out, unable to stop her lips from moving.
Mako’s eyes widen for a moment, searching in her direction, and then he feebly stands to his feet. Cradling his arm against his chest, he offers her a curt nod in greeting.
Bile rises to her throat. She hates the obsidian-glass edges in his eyes and would rather have him smile that damnable smug grin of his than have him ponder all the ways she’s fallen short—all the ways in which she’s failed him. Maybe that’s not the look he’s giving her, but it’s what she feels. The entire ordeal has left a void inside her—an emptiness that she didn’t even know had existed until now.
It bothers her—all this damn thinking she’s been doing lately. Things were so much simpler when she only had herself to think about, but now thoughts of him are worrying at her stomach in the middle of the night. They leave her awake at four in the morning, watching Mako’s tent with guarded eyes, wondering if Asami’s in there with him wrapped up in blankets. It makes Korra wish that she had only been stronger, wiser, more careful, then maybe she wouldn’t have been caught and he wouldn’t have been hurt and maybe—just maybe—she’d be the one with him right now.
She cuts herself short, unable to finish her sentence. Turning her head away in embarrassment, she tries not to feel his eyes on her. She’s frustrated—frustrated that she can’t act the way she used to with him and frustrated that she can’t say a simple “I’m sorry”. What is wrong with her?
“Want to help me down to the beach?” he asks in a soft raspy voice, somehow looking aloof while barely having the energy to stand.
Relieved and slightly amused, Korra nods and offers him a half-smile before rising to her feet. She dusts herself off and walks over him. Gingerly taking his good arm, she guides him towards the water. They make an odd-looking pair, both bruised and broken, but too proud to ask the able-bodied for aid. When they make it to the shore, they help each other down before painfully colliding into one another.
Korra laughs despite the pain and settles back, resting her elbows in the sand. A long silence stretches out between them, thick and honeyed, as they both watch the waves roll against the shore. The gentle pull and push of the tide is relaxing, almost hypnotic, and Korra doesn’t even register the words that suddenly come pouring out of her mouth.
“I know I rag on you sometimes for being so cautious but . . . but I want you to know that I really appreciate you taking the shot—” she sits up, dusting the sand off her hands “—and you know, you shouldn’t regret that decision.”
It’s the closest she’s ever come to thanking him for something and she foolishly expects a response. But instead of words, a wry, mirthless smile angles across his lips. Mako’s always been a man of few words. Sure it tends to annoy Korra, but it’s also something that she’s always respected about him. Right now, though, she wants something—a word, a gesture—anything to let her know that he actually cares about her beyond the fact that she’s the Avatar.
“Despite what happened and will happen, I just want you to know that I—that I trust you with my life.” She turns her head so that her eyes meet his, vulnerable. “I-I can’t do this without you.”
She expects him to turn away or shrug it off or do that brooding pose of his, but he doesn’t. Instead, he shifts on the sand so that he can face her completely, the wind playing with his hair.
“You know, it killed me to be the one on the other end, to be given the choice of losing you or taking the chance to free you—” his eyes linger on the burn marks on her neck and shoulder “—or kill you.”
She reaches up to touch her throat, tracing the already-fading scar with her fingers. Rebellious tears threaten to spill and hang precariously on her lashes. She tells herself that she has to be stronger than this; she has to be stronger than him. But for what reason, she doesn’t quite know.
“You made the right choice, Mako,” she says, lowering her hand and taking in a shaking exhalation. “You couldn’t let Amon get away.”
“Amon?” Mako barks a bitter laugh before shaking his head. “My choice had nothing to do with him. Why do you think I came for you in the first place? Korra—” he reaches out to cup her cheek “—there is nothing, nothing in this world like the agony of leaving you behind.”
Chapter 3: Caution
Part III of the No Way Out arc.
All is serene at the temple, relaxing and peaceful. A warm breeze from an open window tinkles the glass pendants of the little pagoda on the table, and Korra stirs. Long eyelashes flutter and her eyes open into slits. Hesitantly, she widens them, adjusting her vision to the bright light. The sun has blanketed the room in a golden white glow. She’s aware that she’s lying on a mat, but she’s not sure how she got there.
Blinking the sleep out of her eyes, Korra positions her elbows on either side and tries to sit up, and fails. There’s a sudden rush to her head; vertigo takes hold and she brings a hand to her temple. Beneath her fingertips beats a throbbing pulse—a tattoo of pain—and she winces. Withdrawing her hand with a sickening grimace, she glances down to see the tips of her fingers stained with blood. Her mind tries to puzzle the pieces together—the whats and the hows—but everything is fuzzy.
Korra turns her head in the direction of the voice, and the wave of nausea that hits her is so powerful that she almost vomits on the spot. Shutting her eyes tightly against the pain, she takes in a deep breath and exhales slowly, trying to suss out the identity of the voice.
“Bolin?” Korra chances to look up and sees the concerned face of her friend. “Yeah, I’m fine,” she assures him, “just a little sick.” She shows him her bloody fingers. “Why am I bleeding?”
The young Earthbender frowns and reaches forward, tentatively touching the cut on her temple. “You don’t remember what happened?”
His fingers trail up into her hairline, and she winces. Only then does she smell the burnt hair and feel the sharp edge of scorched flesh.
“That’s why I’m asking you,” she says gruffly, swatting away his hand. “I remember training with Sifu Tenzin and, uh, after that he sent me to spar with you and Mako.”
She looks up at Bolin for confirmation, but he only shakes his head.
“Not quite. After your lessons with Master Tenzin, you went looking for Mako. You said something about ‘shirts versus skins’ and a rematch.” He shrugs uncomfortably. “You wanted to spar him.”
“Oh, right—” Korra nods absently “—my training didn’t go well with Master Tenzin and I wanted to let off a little steam.” She offers Bolin a sheepish grin. “Lemme guess—” she points to her temple “—I got this from Mako.”
“Figures I can’t remember,” she mumbles, rolling her eyes. “So where is he now?”
“No, Koh,” Korra retorts facetiously. “I want to punch him in his many faces.”
Bolin lets a brief smile flit across his face; it’s not quite the reaction Korra is expecting.
Bolin shrugs. “Back to the city.”
“What?” Korra’s brow knits into a deep V. “Why?”
Bolin shifts uncomfortably on his feet, avoiding the Avatar’s penetrating gaze. “He hurt you, Korra. He feels responsible.”
“That’s ridiculous,” she says with a forced laugh. “He’s a pro-bender. He hurts people all the time.”
“Actually, he doesn’t.” Bolin inhales deeply, folding his arms across his broad chest. “Mako’s pretty good at disarming his opponent without having to hurt him.”
“Fine, whatever.” Korra dismisses him with a wave of her hand. “I don’t see why he’s running away.”
Bolin shrugs and Korra worries her bottom lip with her teeth, thinking. Nodding her head resolutely, she folds back the covers and swivels out of bed.
“How much of a head-start does he have?” she asks, uneasily rising to her feet. “Maybe I can catch up with him.”
“Bolin,” she growls warningly, her eyes cold and mirthless, “—you’re not going to stop me. I’m bringing Mako back.”
“And I encourage you,” Bolin retorts, raising his hands in the air. “Rawr! Go get him, tiger! Who cares about your possible concussion?”
Korra gives him a look—the kind that could kill—and Bolin steps back and out of her way, lowering his head.
“He’s got a twenty minute head-start.”
As she goes to leave, Bolin reaches out and grabs her wrist.
She looks down at his hand, and he releases her arm as though he’s been burned. His green eyes are round and pleading, focused solely on her.
“Look, Korra, there’s something you need to know before you confront him.” He licks his lips nervously and begins to fidget with his fingers. “Mako’s always been a cautious bender, but you don’t know the reason why.”
Korra pauses, her entire attention focused on Bolin. This is what she’s been trying to figure out since she met the brothers, and now Bolin was going to tell her everything she wanted to know.
“Mako was really excited when he found out he was a Firebender. He wanted to learn everything, every technique, and he wanted to learn them all right then and there.” Bolin laughs softly, looking past Korra as he recalls the past. “We’d always been taught to never bend against another person, to always be mindful of our powers.
“One day, my brother and I got into a fight. I ended up throwing this big tantrum because Mako could bend and I couldn’t. To be honest, I don’t remember much—I was only three at time—but what I do remember was my big brother trying his best to get me to cheer me up. He made this little ball of fire in his hand, but the flame began to grow out control and he couldn’t stop it.
“The fire leapt out of his palm and hit me here—” he places his hand over his heart “—and all I remember is being in a lot of pain. Woke up in the hospital.”
“And Mako—” Korra takes in a shuddering breath and looks away “—what happened to him? What did he do?”
“He never forgave himself.”
Korra frowned. So this is why he became the cautious bender she knows today.
“He’s not a coward, Korra. It’s just how he deals. He hurt you and he thinks he has to atone for it by staying away.”
“Please, Korra.” Bolin interlocks his fingers and brings them to his mouth. “You need to tell him that the only way he can make a difference is by staying with you—by helping you.”
Korra nods slowly and puts a hand on her friend’s shoulder. “I will, Bolin,” she says softly, before stalking past him. “I will.”
Chapter 4: Inch By Inch
Part IV and final chapter of the Now Way Out arc.
Korra runs with all her might, as fast as she has ever run before; she runs until the fire burning in her muscles spreads to her lungs and she is forced to stop, doubling over and gasping for air. Recovered, she steps towards the edge of a narrow rim of rock and looks down on the ragged wisps of clouds below. The trails of clouds are but the tattered castoffs of the churning blanket of fluff above. Out in the open, though, the cool damp air that drifts over her is refreshing and it carries the aromas of balsam trees and moss and wet leaves settled on saturated soil. She inhales deeply and clears her mind, directing her attention to the slopes below, scanning for signs of movement.
The mountains are large and high, with the slope rising up behind her almost dizzying, and she dreads the trudge back up to the monastery. To the west, far below, lies a vast stretch of fractured ground and ever-rising rugged hills carpeted in forests. Narrowing her eyes, she can barely make out the strip of ground that is devoid of trees—the path that leads towards the river and into the city—and that was when she sees him: Mako.
Shielding her eyes with the flat of her hand, Korra scans the rise of the forest and the level of the rocky ground below. She can slowly climb down the slick bank of moss and wet leaves and roots and try to catch up with Mako at the shore or she can do something incredibly risky and catapult herself off the side of the mountain and cut the Firebender off at the pass. She chooses risky.
Korra takes a running leap, using the air and her own inertia to send her body flying outward. It feels like she’s flying, and she can’t help but yell out as she soars through the air. She knows that if all else fails she can manipulate the earth to cushion her fall, but she wants to know if her Airbending skills have improved at all. And as she rockets to the earth, she can already see Mako’s face coming into view. His expression is different from his usual look of bored indifference; the briefest hint of confusion and mild panic flits across his features as he backs up and Korra manipulates the air around them both, sending Mako flying backwards.
Landing with less grace than she had hoped for, Korra wobbles on her feet before pumping her fist in the air with a triumphant cheer.
“Did you see that?” She runs over to Mako, who’s still lying on his back. “I am totally owning Airbending!”
Korra offers him a hand, but Mako ignores it and agilely jumps to his feet.
“Why are you here, Korra?” His voice is like a growl, matching the surly look on his face.
“I’ve come to bring you back to the temple.”
“I’m not going back.”
He turns to walk past her towards the shore and she reaches out to touch his shoulder, spinning him around.
“Stop this!” His eyes meet hers and she drops her hand, shrugging indifferently. “So what that you burned me? I’m tough; I can take it—” she points to herself with a grin “—I am the Avatar, after all.
“I will admit that I was shocked that you were able to get a hit on me—and that’s all the more reason to have you on my crew. You could teach me more about Firebending and—” she takes in a deep breath “—maybe I could help you be less cautious with your bending.”
Mako shakes his head. “None of this is about me being cautious or me you hurting you.”
“Whoa, whoa!” Korra’s hands are already raised in the air. “Who said you hurt me? And, by the way, thanks for asking if I was okay.”
“Well, according to you I didn’t hurt you and you’re here right now after jumping off the side of a mountain.” He shrugs. “I can only assume that you’re okay—insane, but okay.”
Korra tries not to grin and toes her boot in the loose dirt. “Alright, if you leaving isn’t about me, which is shocking by the way, then what is it about?”
“It’s about me and our conflicting ideas about this bending revolution.”
“What?” Her head snaps up in shock. “Wait, I don’t get it. You’re a bender. How are you conflicted about what Amon and the Equalists are doing?”
“How can you not be? The unchecked use of bending brought about the Hundred Years War.”
“So you’re saying that the rest of us should suffer for the action of a few crazy, power-tripping benders?”
“Of course not.” Mako exhales slowly while glancing down at his folded hands. “I just—I just understand how easy it is to lose control. There’s always been this niggling voice at the back of my head, telling me to be more confident in my abilities and to be less hesitant, but—”
“You should listen to that voice!” Korra interrupts with more feeling than she had intended. “In these times, we can’t afford to be cautious. It’s kill or be killed. We can’t let the Equalists get the upper hand or it’ll just be a repeat of the Hundred Years War, except with them ruling.”
Suddenly Mako’s hands are on her shoulders, gripping hard.
“Korra, don’t you understand that things are different now?” His eyes are burnt amber, boring in hers. “Back then, Avatar Aang was fighting a war—trying to stop one nation from burning another to the ground. Violence was used because there’s no reasoning with a dictator bent on global domination.”
She shrugs off his hands. “And there is with a tyrant wanting to outlaw bending? Why not start rounding up all benders into camps? That sounds fair—to treat us like we’re some kind of disease to be controlled or eliminated!”
“You still don’t get it. This is a revolution, not a war.”
“What’s the difference?”
“Revolutions are a necessary evil and have far more pervasive and everlasting consequences than war.” He sighs, raking fingers through his dark fringe. “A revolution is like an insidious idea that starts small, almost innocuous, and then it spreads like a cancer. It subtly changes people’s perceptions because it knows the general populace’s fears and it feeds on them, redirecting them. It’s the ‘if you’re not with us, you’re against us’ mentality. You can’t just go in and kill the leader—”
Korra has her hands on her hips, leaning forward with a look of defiance etched across her face. It must have taken all of Mako’s willpower not to snort outright.
“Because you’re only reinforcing the stereotype that benders are dangerous. You’d just make a martyr out of Amon and legitimise his entire ideology.”
“Hmph!” Korra folds her arms beneath her chest, visibly pouting. “So when did you become so smart?”
“Right around the time you started becoming so reckless and stupid,” he answers, offering Korra a rare smile. “You know, being the cautious, ‘wimpy’ bender—” he makes quotation marks with his fingers “—has given me time to hone my deep thinker skills.”
“And your brooding,” Korra adds casually, and Mako nods.
“Yeah, that too.”
The two share an awkward silence under the overhanging branches of a scrawny mountain maple. It begins to drizzle, collecting on the leave until they’ve had as much as they can handle. Fat drops begin to patter down, slapping the lower leaves until they drip on Korra’s head. She doesn’t even both to bend them away.
“Listen, Mako,” she begins softly, “I know you’re conflicted with what’s going on—we all are, even me. I just—I just don’t externalise like you do. But . . .” She pauses, taking in a deep breath. “But I’m starting to understand you and where you’re coming and I know that I’ve still got a lot to learn—about bending, about this city, about our enemy.
“But you and Bolin are like family and I think we all need each other to be strong, to make things right. And I just don’t think—” she swallows hard “—I don’t want to do this without you.”
It takes all Korra’s strength to look him in the eyes, to sacrifice her pride and admit that she needs help—his help—and she wonders if she even got through. Mako just studies her face, his expression blank, and suddenly he’s moving past her.
“Mako?” She spins around, her heart lodged in her throat.
Has she lost him for good?
“C’mon,” he rasps, turning to look over his shoulder, “let’s go home.”
She’s already at his side, and he glances down at her for just a fraction of a section, flashing a shy, almost coquettish smile. Korra can’t help but blush; this is a side of him that she’s never seen before and it makes her heart swell a little knowing that he’s allowed her in as far as he has, if only inch by inch. And she thinks that maybe they can win this war, weather this revolution. Together.
Chapter 5: Caught In The Middle
Bolin runs at a violent, clumsy pace. He runs down the street and cuts into a side alley, vaults over a fence, and hastens onwards. Nausea rises in his belly, and there’s a taste of vomit in his throat. He doesn’t know how long he can keep up this pace, but he’s not really thinking about his capabilities—only that he needs to get away.
He’s just a boy, not old enough to bend something bigger than a little rock. And he’s caught in the middle. A brawl. A riot. A fight with every man for himself. There are bloody heads and screaming children and the horrid smell of burnt hair wafting in the air. Sirens wail in the distance. The dropped sachets of crisps and candy floss rot on the ground while men fight blindly in the dust and sun. It’s the sharp scrape of teeth against knuckles, the letting loose of a wild, hard rhythm, and the dead blank face of not knowing or caring if anyone has survived. And Bolin—
Bolin’s caught in the middle of it all.
Chapter 6: Blood
There is so much blood; it’s everywhere—on his hands, on the ground, on her. Mako never knew so much could pour out of someone so small. He never realised that someone like Korra could be hurt, could bleed, could . . . die.
She’s lying in his arms coughing up the red life substance, and he wants this all to be a dream so badly that he would tear out his own heart to make it so. Amidst the shouting and siren wails, he can hear Bolin behind him; he’s roaring for help, and Mako hopes to hell that he’s directing a healer their way.
“You’ve got to stop Amon, Mako,” she croaks, her hand limp on his arm. “You’ve got to . . .” There’s a weak but determined look on her face, even as her teeth grit through the pain.
Blood seeps thick and red through the blue fabric of her tunic, staining it dark like the bruises on his face and chest. His fingers are wet where they press through his jacket that he had thrown on her to help staunch the wound. Suddenly her mouth clenches and her wide blue eyes begin to flutter shut.
“Korra, don’t you dare close your eyes!” He slaps her hard on the cheek. “Look at me!”
She opens her eyes and he offers her a half-smile; his hand is on her reddened cheek, guiding her gaze to his, while the other is buried in fabric and blood.
“I need you to stay awake so that you can bark orders at me and Bolin, okay?” There is a tremor way down deep in his throat and even though there is no way she could have heard it, he knows it’s there and he refuses to let her see him scared. “Everything’s going to be fine. A healer’s on the way. Just hold on for a little while longer. You’re going to be—”
Mako bolts awake at the touch of his brother’s hand on his shoulder, shaking him awake.
“You okay, Brother?” There’s a concerned look on Bolin’s face, and Mako instantly relaxes.
“I’m fine,” he admits, running his fingers through his dishevelled hair. “It was just a bad dream.”
“Bad dream, huh?” Bolin smiles, a mischievous glint in his eyes. “So your nightmare world is one where Korra isn’t bossing us around?”
Bolin barely has time to duck before Mako shoots a ball of fire at him.
Chapter 7: Kiss
He’s gone too far this time—said the wrong thing at the wrong time—or maybe she’s just reached her limit. Probably both. It doesn’t help that he’s so damn smug all the time, thinking he’s always right. She wants to humiliate him more than anything, to drag him down to the same level.
This time she decides to strike out with her hand. A slap. Maybe she’d leave a bruise or a scratch—a reminder of his humiliation. But for once he’s too fast for her, anticipating the blow, and he catches her by the wrist. He smiles that damnable smug smile of his and suddenly dips his head downwards, capturing her lips with a kiss.
Her eyes open wide in shock, locking with golden irises that seem to dance in the moonlight and dare her to pull away. When she doesn’t, he takes that as his cue to deepen the kiss and wraps his free arm around her waist, pulling her in close. When she finally closes her eyes and gives in, he tentatively releases her wrist and cups her face with a warm hand. His fingers trail down her jaw to her neck, tracing the staves her tendons raise beneath the skin. She sighs into his mouth, feeling the heat radiate off his skin in waves; his gloved fingers somehow burn into her flesh.
He is like a musician, all deft and gentle fingers on her strings, until the music of their kiss crescendos into a burning note of passion, until there is no turning back. There is music in his throat and he transcribes it on her lips and along her jaw, as if she’s something fleeting and fleeing from his embrace.
Secretly, she will never let him go. For his kiss is like a song too beautiful for words and can disappear like filigree curls of smoke if trusted to her memory alone.
Chapter 8: The Boy Without A Soul
“Papa, tell me a story.”
Tenzin stops in the doorway, glancing down at his eldest daughter, Jinora. She is only four, but she is incredibly inquisitive and bright and, unlike her younger sister, willing to stand still for more than five seconds.
“Do you promise to go to sleep if I do?” he asks, folding back the cover on her futon so that she can crawl inside.
“Mhm,” she murmurs with a nod before pulling the blanket up to her chin. “Tell me ‘nother adventure story of Grandpa’s.”
Tenzin sits down beside her and folds his legs underneath in lotus position. “Most of Grandpa’s adventures happened before I was born,” he says, but when he sees Jinora’s lips droop downwards into a pout, he quickly shrugs it off with a smile. “But there was the time he went to the Spirit World when I was very little.”
“When you were my age?” she asks excitedly, pointing to herself, and he nods in affirmative. “Oh, tell me that one, then! Please, Papa?”
“Once, long ago,” he begins, “there was a young boy who accidentally travelled into the Spirit World—”
“Was it you, Papa?”
“Jinora,” he chastises roughly, “it is rude to interrupt your elders.”
“The boy,” he continues, “was someone Grandpa knew and he was much older than I. I was very little when the boy got lost in the Spirit World. The high god had found him wandering near Koh’s cave and stopped him, asking how he managed to arrive there. The boy could give no answer, so the god decided to send him back to the real world. But before he did, the god took the mortal boy’s soul and placed it in a bottle where he hid it in the Spirit World.”
“His soul?” Jinora interrupts, blinking rapidly. “Papa, what’s that?”
“A soul is something very precious that everyone has; it is what makes you who you are.”
Jinora sits up. “Do I have one?”
“Yes, you do.”
“Where do you keep your soul, Papa?”
“Here—” he points to her chest “—inside you.”
Jinora places her hand over her heart and frowns thoughtfully. “But why would the god want to take away the boy’s soul? Doesn’t he have his own?”
Tenzin shakes his head. “Grandpa didn’t know why at the time, but when he found the boy without a soul he was very upset and afraid for him.”
“Because Grandpa believed that the boy would be lost without his soul, unable to live a natural or fulfilling life.” He leans forward. “You see, Jinora, a soul is very precious and personal, and no one has the right to steal it from you.”
“Because stealing is wrong, right?” Jinora adds emphatically, and Tenzin smiles.
“So Grandpa went down to the Spirit World to find the boy’s soul and take it back from the mean god?”
Tenzin tents his fingers and nods. “Yes, but you see in the Spirit World Grandpa had no powers, not like he did here.”
Jinora frowns. “Then how did he fight the mean god?”
“First he had to find the bottle in which the soul was kept. But when he found it and was ready to return to our world, the high god had discovered what Grandpa had done and stopped him from leaving.”
“Oh no!” Jinora’s tiny hands fly up to her mouth in shock and horror.
“The high god confronted Grandpa and asked him why he thought he could steal from the gods. Grandpa replied that the boy’s soul was not for the high god’s to take, but the god did not agree with Grandpa or that Grandpa had a right to take the boy’s soul either—”
“Even if Grandpa was going to return it to the boy?” Jinora asks, and Tenzin nods sadly.
“Since both felt very strongly about the issue, and neither wanted to give up the boy’s soul, the god offered Grandpa a deal: he could return the boy’s soul to the high god and never come to the Spirit World to search for it again, or he could exchange something precious of his for the soul.
“Grandpa was a very giving person and was willing to give his own life to save the boy’s soul, but the god did not want Grandpa’s life; he wanted the boy’s soul. Grandpa, however, refused to relinquish it, so the high god proposed a compromise: Grandpa could give the boy his soul back, but he could never speak to the boy again. Grandpa didn’t want to do this, but it seemed like the only way he could return the boy’s soul. He accepted the terms, made his promise, and the god let him return to our world with the boy’s soul in the bottle.”
Jinora, who is sitting up in her bed by this point, gasps. “Did Grandpa give the boy his soul back?”
“Yes, he did.”
“Was the boy happy?”
Tenzin pauses and then shakes his head. “No.”
“Because the boy was never meant to be happy,” Tenzin answers, letting out a protracted sigh. “What the high god hadn’t told Grandpa was that he took the boy’s soul because it was tainted with evil. When Grandpa stole the bottle, the god gave him the option to leave things as they were or to return the boy’s tainted soul. Grandpa, with his big heart, thought what was best for the boy was to have his soul returned to him. But, in the end, it only made things worse.”
“And Grandpa—” Jinora glances down at her bedsheets “—he never talked to the boy again?”
“No, he kept his promise to the high god.”
“Oh Papa—” Jinora looks up, her eyes filling with tears “—that’s such a sad story!”
“I know,” Tenzin says, leaning forward to give his daughter a hug. “I’m sorry, Jinora. I should have told you a happier story.”
When he finally lets go, Jinora wipes away her tears and offers him a hopeful smile. “Can you give it a happy ending anyway and pretend the sad ending never happened?”
“Of course.” Tenzin smiles and kisses his daughter’s cheek. “After the god let Grandpa go, Grandpa returned the boy’s soul to him and he was so happy that he hugged and thanked Grandpa for everything he had done. Everyone was so happy about what Grandpa had done that there was a parade held in his honour in Republic City. And the boy who was once without a soul grew up to be the kindest, most generous person the world has ever known, and he lived happily-ever-after, grateful for what Grandpa had done for him.”
Jinora lets out a relieved sigh and settles back into bed, letting her father tuck her in. “I like that ending a lot better, Papa.”
“Me too,” Tenzin agrees, giving Jinora one last kiss before rising to his feet.
“What was the boy’s name?”
“I . . .” He pauses, momentarily startled by her question. “Amon,” he finally answers in a rough voice. “The boy’s name was Amon.”
This was loosely based on Siberian myth of Morgon-Kara.
Chapter 9: Loss
Korra remembers the first time she understood the meaning of loss. It was winter, and her pet wolf had fallen through the ice and drowned. Her father had tried his best to console her, but they were only hollow words echoing in her ears. All she wanted was her best friend back, but he was gone forever.
She was only six.
Mako can’t remember a time he didn’t feel loss or disappointment; he’s convinced that life is full of it. The harsh truths of reality visited him at an early age and, unlike his parents, that harsh existence has not yet abandoned him. But through the fear and the hunger and the heartache he is able to look past it all and move forward.
He has his brother and that’s all the family he needs.
You see, life is the sum of our losses, just as it is the sum of our gains. But is what’s lost ever truly gone? If we lose our parents, can we no longer call ourselves someone’s daughter, someone’s son? Do we lose that right? Or are we always their child, always connected—even in death? We would like to think that those identities, those memories, can never be taken away.
But sometimes a loss can seem so great that nothing can heal its wound. And sometimes our despair becomes an anger that has no place to go but to dwell deep inside. The heart becomes a lonely warrior bent on fighting battles it cannot win. But we need not despair, for all is not lost and pain is not forever. There is still light in this world, even at the darkest of times. And in that light we can chance to find hope and the beauty of a friendship that offers us the strength to carry on.
This is one of those stories.
This little preachy-esque drabble was inspired by my latest Makorra fic, The Heart Is A Lonely Warrior. Consider this a part of the Lonely Warrior!verse. I will most likely add more from that 'verse—and possibly arcs—as time goes by.
Chapter 10: Insightful
This was originally posted 7-25-11. It was written before we knew anything Bolin. Consider it Makorralin, the greatest OT3 ever! :D
Her scream is like a cacophonous battle cry and is far too shrill for his sensitive ears. He doesn’t need to look up from his pot of simmering stew to see (or feel, for that matter) Korra stomping towards him with a vengeance. He half-cringes at the verbal assault that she is about to unleash on him as a form of venting, but he also half-grins at the image of her charging at him like a deranged sabre-toothed moose-lion (unfortunately, though, she’s far more dangerous).
“I’m going to kill him!” she growls, holding up her hands and miming a strangling motion with terrifying accuracy. “I’m going to kill him and then I’m going to chop him up into little pieces! No!” Her lips curve upward into a menacing smirk. “I’m going to chop him up into little pieces first and then I’m going to kill him!”
These sort of threats aren’t new or unexpected: Korra’s been wanting to kill his brother for a long time now. And Bolin endures these arguments almost every night, waiting for the day when they’ll explode into a fiery inferno that will culminate in bloodshed for them all. Until then, Bolin will maintain his role as the mediator, the one they both come to to bitch about the other. It’s a thankless job, but he would much rather be on the sidelines than in the ring.
“Another tactical disagreement with Mako, I presume?” he asks absently, before bending over the pot and bringing the wooden ladle to his lips to hazard a sip.
She flops down beside him and crosses her arms over her chest. “He thinks I can’t lead a proper plan of attack on the Equalists’ base of operations! Me—” she dramatically points to herself “—the Avatar!”
“Do you know where their headquarters are located?” he asks, and wishes he hadn’t turned to make eye contact with her when he said that because she looks positively livid.
“You’re starting to sound a lot like your brother,” she comments, her blue eyes narrowing suspiciously.
Bolin immediately drops the ladle in the pot and raises his hands in a defensive manner. “Hey, whoa, I was just asking a question.”
She noisily exhales through her nose before resuming her brooding posture. “Yeah, well, at least you asked nicely. He always assumes that I can’t do anything right, that I can’t think before I act. Nothing I do is ever good enough!” She turns her head, and he knows that she really isn’t talking about Mako. “I don’t get how you two are even related. You’re so sweet and kind and funny and he’s—”
“Yeah—” Bolin sighs, taking the seat beside Korra “—it’s the Firebender in him. He’s a—”
He opens his palms and shrugs. “I was going to go with abrasive but, sure, he can be difficult.”
“Difficult?” She scoffs. “He’s the most arrogant, brooding jerk I’ve ever met.”
Bolin can’t help but grin at this. “He probably is, but—”
“But he cares about you, Korra. We both do.” He reaches out to put a hand on her bare shoulder. “We just want to make sure you don’t get hurt.”
She jerks her arm away and stands to her feet, looking darkly over her shoulder at him. “I’m the Avatar,” she says with finality. “I know how to take care of myself.”
When she walks away, like he knew she would, he can only shake his head and sigh. He doesn’t bother to watch her go or follow her. She’ll do what she wants, when she wants, and no one will stop her. And as much as she hates what his brother tells her, she knows that he’s right.
“Out of my way!”
There’s a loud commotion, the sound of feet quickly shuffling and rushing water, and colourful expletives are shouted into the night air. Mako emerges, red-faced and cursing, looking ready to punch someone in the face, and Bolin sincerely hopes that it won’t be him.
“What is her problem now?” Mako barks, his usual cool demeanour vanished.
“She’s living in the shadow of Avatar Aang, who had less than a year to master the three other elements while saving the world when he was only twelve.” He shrugs. “And Korra thinks that if she can stop this revolution on her own, she’ll be able to live up to others expectations, and her own.”
Mako stares pointedly at Bolin for a moment until a deep V of concentration creases his brow. “Hmm. I thought her problem was me.”
Bolin rolls his eyes and stands up, tending to his stew. “Not everything’s about you, Brother.”
Chapter 11: Bruises
This was originally posted 7-24-11 (right after the Comcon trailer was released) and is one of the first Makorra fics written. Remember, we had no idea what the brothers' personalities would be like - or Korra's. Still, I think this is cute in its own angsty way.
She’s gone off half-cocked again, thinking she can take on the entire world all by herself. When she finally returns home, cursing and making an ungodly racket, he sees that she has more broken bones and bruises on her than he’d like to count.
Bolin tries to help as best he can, but she just dismisses him with a wave of her hand and tends to her own wounds. But she can barely heal herself for crap (some great master Waterbender she is), and she’ll never ask for help. Never. At least his brother can get close to her, though, not that he wants to. No, this Firebender would rather not. Let Bolin play the nurse; let Bolin take the abuse. Mako is just too damn sick of it all.
Besides, if he were to make a move to come near her, she would just bend him through a wall or tell him to fuck off with such ferocity that she might as well have crushed him into the earth or slit his throat with her stupid ice dagger. He’ll never know why he puts up with her to begin with. Maybe it’s because of Bolin or maybe it’s because she is the Avatar: a Waterbending Avatar ruled by her emotions in the time of a revolution. Just peachy. Bolin would call it dramatic irony or some shit, but he’d be wrong. Korra is just a pain in the ass.
And when she comes back from fights like these, bruised and bloodied, he wants to grab her by the shoulders and shake some goddamn sense into her. Avatar or not, she is too reckless, too head-strong, too Korra. She’s the last one to ask for help but she’s the one who needs it the most. She shouldn’t be risking so much; she shouldn’t doing this all alone.
“What?” she snaps, looking up to see him frowning at her.
She’s trying to heal a fractured wrist, but she’s too emotionally spun and can’t concentrate. For all her amazing power and sheer force, she can’t manipulate that energy into something positive like healing. She can only bend destruction, like fire, and he often wonders if she was born in the wrong nation, the wrong era.
“You’re doing it all wrong,” he growls, knowing that he has risen to her baiting. She just wants another fight with someone she can win against this time, since she obviously lost the last battle.
Her blue eyes narrow dangerously. “Oh, I’m sorry, Mako. Are you, a Firebender, now an expert on healing and Waterbending?”
His hackles rise, and he takes a step forward while Korra stands defiantly to meet him. Shattered wrist or not, she can trounce him like a child’s rag doll. He would never stand a chance. But Mako isn’t the type to back down from a challenge. Sure, he might seem patient and level-headed to some, but his threshold for Korra’s bullshit is only so high and right now his tolerance is beyond tested; he’s reached his boiling point.
Already Bolin, the peacemaker, is stepping in between them, but Mako gently shoves his brother to side and faces Korra directly. Her eyes are still narrowed on the Firebender, her chest heaving rapidly with each breath she takes. Reaching out with two fingers, Mako touches her shoulder and pushes, forcing her to sit back down on the floor. She’s caught off-guard when he kneels beside her, gently taking her swollen wrist in one hand while his other cups water from the bowl next to her feet.
His actions are slow and deliberate, like a man trying to placate a skittish animal. He lets the water drain from his palm and through his fingers onto her wrist and trains his golden eyes on hers when she hisses in a short intake of breath.
“There are a lot of things you don’t know about me,” he informs her darkly, his voice thick as his fingers trace the purple-black bruise circling her wrist. “Concentrate on the movement of my fingers and imagine them as currents mending your bones.”
Her eyes are suddenly wide now, like liquid pools of sapphire, and he feels himself getting lost in them, if only for a moment. So often does she blur the line between what is real and what is imagined that he forgets why they argue so much, why they clash so brightly. She’s so stubborn yet so incredibly fierce, unwavering and steadfast like a tattoo on his heart, that he cannot picture anything or anyone else in the room but her.
She’s looking down at his fingers still drawing invisible lines on her skin, and she brings her dark fingers down to his, tracing over top. She closes her eyes in deep concentration and the water begins to glow as blue as her eyes. He’s aware that his fingers are now numbly cold and he looks down to see that her skin is already healing, the bruises disappearing and her bones beginning to mend.
Her voice is barely above an audible whisper and her face is turned, her hand already snatched away from his. Like every connection they have ever made, it is fleeting and cold when it ends.
He rises to his feet, feeling the cool water trickle down his hand and drip onto the floor. Maybe this hasn’t changed anything. She will still take off and fight without them; she will still claim to be able to do this all on her own; she will still get hurt and bruised and broken. But now, maybe, she’ll understand that she has people to come home to; someone who cares.
Chapter 12: Identity
Who is she?
It seems like it is such a simple question that it should have an equally simple answer.
She is Korra, the Avatar.
She is, she was, and she will always be.
But now that answer has become a riddle and the question is so complex she cannot even begin to wrap her mind around it. It is a puzzle that haunts her, hollowing her out from within.
Who is she without her powers?
The thought alone terrifies her. It seems unnatural, like a sick joke, but the question slowly takes root in her mind, filtering into her bones, her very soul, and it will not let her rest.
Who is she?
She feels uneasy and, in some unknown way, afraid. Without her powers she is nothing, no one. She has built her very identity around a title, an image, but without it, what can she be?
Who is she?
Korra doesn’t know anymore, and it scares her more than she can ever admit.
Random thoughts inspired by the end of episode 4, The Voice in the Night.
Chapter 13: Don’t Bring A Knife To An Avatar Fight
Korra’s angry. No, she’s pissed. To be precise, she’s pissed off at Mako. She has always been the instigator, the catalyst, the brass-knuckled fire-starter of the two. But it is Mako who decided to get angry at her for no reason during evening practice and it is Mako who chose to storm out of the gym in a spectacular huff over the tiniest disagreement. What else could Korra do but storm out as well?
She isn’t sure where to go at first, so she sets out for the first watering hole she comes across: a seedy tavern nestled on the corner of an equally shady-looking dark alleyway. The lights are dim inside, just dark enough to hide the curling blue smoke in the air and the insignia of the Water Tribe garb she wears. She prefers it this way, rather hoping to blend in with the local denizens. The bar itself is filled with rough-looking men dressed in work overalls, manual labourers flocking to the bar for a quick (or long) drink before heading back home to their families.
Korra moves towards the bar with her usual aggressive, laid-back sort of swagger, taking a seat on one of the empty stools. She’s not sure what to have—she’s never really drunk hard liquor before—but the barkeep smiles at her, showing a line of crooked teeth. He serves her a glass of something dark and pungent, which Korra assumes must also be used to grease engines, before offering her a wink. The smile and wink should have unnerved her, but he seems harmless enough. There are cuts and scrapes on his face, bought over the years with many Triple Threat Triad credits, she assumes. If he can’t give them the extortion money, then he gives them a broken nose.
She takes a large sip and hisses through her teeth. The drink is strong, damn strong, and the barkeep just keeps grinning at her. Korra matches his grin and takes another sip, letting the cool liquid burn down her throat without complaint. When she finishes the contents of her glass, the bartender offers her a nod of respect and yet another drink. And as the liquid fire burns a hole in her gullet, spreading a hot flush throughout her entire body, Korra plays with the rim of her glass and broods.
She freely admits that the news of Asami had surprised her, but the fact that Mako fell in the first place is the true shocker. For that serious control-freak jerk to just go out and get himself a girlfriend without her knowing is just—well, it is just ridiculous. Mako was always going on about the job, taking everything so damn seriously that she didn’t think he’d ever have time for a girlfriend. But apparently he does and apparently that girlfriend can’t be her.
The green-eyed monster suddenly growls deep inside her chest, and Korra mentally tries to brush it away. But the damn thing won’t go, won’t be so easily swept under the rug, so she opts to drown it. Slumping over the bar, Korra continues to drink, and as she drinks she begins to think.
“He didn’t even give me a reason why he started dating her,” Korra tells the bartender with a slight slur to her speech. “And, y’know—” she points her glass at him “—that was the worst part. I mean it’s obvious that she’s beautiful and rich and sweet and sophisticated, but since when did he care about anything other than Pro-bending and his brother?” She hiccups loudly. “S-since when did he start taking hand-outs?”
“That bastard,” the barkeep supplies right on cue, completely deadpan, and Korra nods emphatically.
“I know, right?”
And what the hell did Mako think he was doing walking out on practice on her, anyway? She is the one who got hurt, got left out of the loop and in the cold. Hasn’t she given up so much of her time and effort for him (and Bolin)? Helping him find his brother, offering her services as a Waterbender so he can win some stupid tournament? That was all her, and what has he given her in return?
Korra sets down her glass and grimaces. Her anger tastes weak and false in her mouth. In her heart of hearts she knows that she is the one who is in the wrong. She didn’t tell him about the task force or her meeting with Amon. She didn’t bother to see how he was doing when she was far too busy focussing on her own fears and doubts. She has given him every reason to be upset, and it was only natural for him to storm out on her like he did.
She takes another drink.
Even to someone as naïve as Korra, her jealousy is transparent. It’s like a flame, a heat bending and charring her out to the edge of something unimaginable. She feels petty and small, unable to control her own emotions. But she cannot help but feel everything at once, and it makes her sick. To love, to be loved, to need it like a breath of air—these thoughts consume her and threaten to swallow her whole. And she is left wondering if love can possibly hurt this much.
In the end, all she can do is pray that the pain will go away—that, and continue drinking.
Korra looks up at the bartender, then at the empty glass in her hand and turns to look at the door. She is the catalyst, the instigator. Maybe it’s about time she did something about these feelings of hers; maybe it’s about time she started a fire—
A glass breaks and another whizzes past her head. Korra ducks effortlessly, quickly checking on the barkeep to see if he’s okay. Raised voices join in broken harmony and someone shouts in pain. A mini-brawl has started near the door with three large men against one.
Korra feels a twinge of annoyance mixed with an overwhelming urge to uphold justice snap at the back of her neck. It just figures that she can’t even drown her own sorrows in peace without some thugs interrupting her thoughts and requiring a good ass-kicking.
“Put him down.”
She sets down her drink and swivels around on the stool, facing the three hoodlums head-on. The tall one, the oldest-looking, lets go of his victim’s collar and stares boldly at her.
“Hey, look, Yasoon. This little girl wants to be a hero," jeers the fat one, a big, thuggish brute with a potato-shaped head.
“She looks familiar,” the small one comments, not so casually looking Korra up and down. “That’s the Avatar, the one who thinks she’s a Pro-bender.”
“So you’re the Avatar, eh?” Yasoon asks with a sniff, wiping his angular nose with the back of his hand before pulling out a long knife. “You don’t look so tough to me.”
The three men share a laugh and Yasoon slowly ambles his way over to Korra, one foot in front of the other with a swing in his step that makes it hard to predict his movements. He makes no effort to conceal the knife in his hand, and once he reaches Korra at the bar, he leans forward and casually rests his arm against the counter.
“In fact—” his breath is hot on her ear “—I heard that Amon owns you.”
Korra’s fingers curl into tight fists, her nails digging uncomfortably into the palms of her hands.
“I wouldn’t mind owning a spunky thing like her,” the short one pips in, a leer creeping across his broken mouth as he continues to drink in Korra’s figure from up close.
Korra smirks and unclenches her fists, slowly folding herself off the stool. Yasoon stands up with her, blocking her exit and foolishly assuming she’d try to escape. Deliberately cocking a hip in arrogance, Korra places a well-calloused hand on the jutting pelvic bone and leans forward.
“Are you looking for a fight?” Her voice is low growl, eerily calm, and the two younger men recoil in shock. Only the older one, Yasoon, stands his ground and grins.
“I’d love to knock you down a peg or two, Avatar,” he rasps, smoothing the stubble on his chin with the flat edge of the blade. “But I ain’t no bender, little lady, and how would that look to your adoring fans if you were to use your bending against us defenceless, law-abiding civilians?”
Korra snorts. “Defenceless?” She reaches back to pick up her glass off the counter. “I don’t need to use my bending against you ‘law-abiding citizens’.”
The men exchange dubious glances with one another before taking out their weapons and sharing a derisive laugh at the Avatar’s expense.
“Is that so?” Yasoon asks, bending down so that he and Korra are nose to nose. The tip of his blade is underneath her chin.
Korra puts the tumbler to her lips and the tall man leans back, lowering his weapon as the Avatar drains the contents of her drink in one large gulp. Holding the glass out at arm’s length, Korra closes an eye like an artist trying to appraise a piece of work. The tall man’s face appears refracted, warped inside the glass, and then everything becomes a blur as Korra’s hand snaps out and smashes the glass into the side of his face. Teeth shatter, curses fly, and Korra is left holding the remains of the glass in her hand. A few half-hearted streams of blood trickle down her fingers and Yasoon’s expression of arrogance changes to a sort of terror that even he doesn’t fully comprehend.
“And to think that I could’ve drank somewhere else tonight,” Korra murmurs, letting the shards of glass slip through the cracks in her fingers and tinkle onto the floor. She turns round to face the other two men who have already dropped their weapons and taken a step back. A paper-thin grin settles on her lips. “Things just got interesting now, didn’t they, boys?”
When the dust finally settles, and the bodies hit the floor, Korra turns back to the bar and orders another drink from the now-scowling barkeep. He no longer seems so friendly; in fact, he appears to be less than enthused with her course of action. Korra shrugs indifferently and apologises for the fuss. She hadn’t used bending or a weapon of any kind other than her fists and feet. The only damage done was to the three men lying prone on the floor. Things could have been worse. The bar could have looked much worse.
Wrapping her fingers around the glass, Korra lets out a sharp hiss of pain. Her knuckles hurt; her shoulders hurt; her arms hurt; and if her pride could feel pain, it’d probably be a bloody screaming mass of haematoma on the floor.
The alcohol has done a lot to numb the pain. Still, the physical aspect of fighting has its done its job, providing her body with the natural satisfaction of primal release—and self-inflicted punishment. But even Korra has to admit that she had probably gone too far with those guys. Alas, she is a slave to her emotions; her pride and wounded ego had refused to let the slights go past unpunished.
“So did you fight these guys or let Naga maul them?”
Mako’s annoyingly patronising voice is in the air, and Korra doesn’t bother to turn to see if it’s really him. The Firebender walks into the bar, passing the fallen bodies, before pulling out the stool beside her. He ignores the prone body lying beneath Korra’s boot and takes a seat.
“We just had a verbal disagreement that, uh—” she pauses, taking a swig from her drink “—turned sorta physical.”
“Yeah. So what are you doing here, anyway?” There is an edge of drunken accusation in her tone, and even she doesn’t like it.
“I came here looking for you.”
Korra lets her eyes briefly trail over his form for a moment before turning away. “Good job. You found me. But it looks like lost your better half.” She smirks bitterly into her glass. “Where’s your arm candy?”
“Arm candy?” Mako blinks nonplussed and then a light seems to switch on above his head. “Oh, you mean Asami?”
“Whatever.” Korra shrugs, turning back to her drink. “It doesn’t concern me, does it?”
The green-eyed monster growls louder, and Korra takes another drink. Drown, you bastard. She hates this. She hates feeling this way—about him, about her—and she just wishes that she wouldn’t always become so angry in his presence.
This can’t be love, can it? Love can’t possibly be this confusing and painful. It can’t be this frustrating.
“Look,” Mako says quietly beside her, “I shouldn’t have just left practice the way I did.”
Korra rolls her eyes. “Spirits forbid your apologies be about anything other than practice or Pro-bending.”
“I was leading up to the big apology, dumb ass.”
“Oh.” Well, didn’t she feel like an idiot.
Her brow, which had been so creased earlier, relaxes and she glances almost shyly at Mako. His hands are folded together and resting on top of the counter. He stares at them intently. Then he lets out a long, protracted sigh and lifts his head to meet her gaze.
“These past few weeks have been busy for the both of us, but I should have been less absorbed in my own life and taken an active interest in yours.” A look of guilt washes over his face. “I should have questioned why you weren’t coming to practice and—” he lets out a breathless bitter laugh and shakes his head “—I should have stopped you from having that stupid showdown with Amon.”
She didn’t think it was so stupid at the time, but Korra can’t help but smile at his angry enthusiasm.
“Thanks, Mako,” she says softly. “But if we’re both being honest here, then this was my fault too.”
She opens her mouth to continue, but the words won’t come. She struggles, torn between feeling envy and respect for this Firebending jerk sitting beside her—a man who is able to so freely express himself while she stumbles for words, tripping over her own pride. Then Mako leans in close and places a comforting hand on her shoulder. Korra can already feel the tears welling up.
“I didn’t let you guys in,” she admits, her voice wavering. “That was on me. I was just—” she blinks back tears and lowers her head, refusing to let him see her cry “—I was afraid of what you would think of me if you knew how scared I was.”
At first, his only reply is silence, and then his fingers are on her chin, lifting her face so that her eyes meet his. Unbidden tears fall, streaking trails down her cheeks.
“Korra, you’re the bravest, most foolhardy person I know—” the pad of his thumb brushes lightly against her cheek, wiping away her tears “—and not once have I expected you to be perfect.”
Korra tries to laugh, but it comes out as a strangled sob. “That’s because you think I’m some stupid kid.”
“No.” He shakes his head. “I’ll admit that I think we’re different. You’re the Avatar, and I’m just some kid from the streets trying to make it. I can’t even compare to you, but—”
He takes in a deep breath. “But I have never doubted your humanity, Korra. I’ve never doubted your heart.”
There’s a pregnant pause and a thick sort of tension hangs in the air. Both turn away in unspoken embarrassment. Korra stares down at the glass in her hands, trying to catch her breath. It feels like there’s a hot curling vice around her chest, constricting her ribs until she can no longer breathe.
“Besides, everyone has fears,” Mako supplies quickly, awkwardly breaching the silence, and Korra looks up.
“Especially me.” Mako rubs the back of his neck and laughs nervously. “I have so many fears I can’t even begin to count them all.”
Korra smiles thinly and looks back down at her hands. She just wishes she could breathe around him. She can’t help but feel that sometimes when she’s with him she feels as though she’s trapped somehow, cornered and suffocating. It’s not a normal sort of fear, like she’s afraid for her life. She’s just frightened that she will lose herself.
“You’re the Avatar, Korra,” Mako says, his voice jarring her thoughts. “I have the responsibility of taking care of myself and my brother, but you—you have to take care of the world. As Bolin would say, ‘That’s heavy stuff’.”
Both laugh, and Korra’s mind goes back to wandering. Maybe it’s the alcohol warming her blood that’s to blame, but his words crudely impact her with the subtlety of a lobbed brick. And she thinks that this world responsibility issue is why she’s never really allowed the spiritual side to creep in. What if she lets her past selves take over? What if it becomes so crowded in her head that she cannot keep her own thoughts? Can she hold onto some minuscule piece of herself and still be Korra? Is she really just the sum of her past lives? And what if Amon does take her bending? Can she exist without it? Can she really save the world?
Suddenly Mako’s swivelling around on the stool to face her, his expression serious. His hand is on her shoulder again, and she feels like she’s falling.
“So the next time you’re feeling scared, I want you to come talk to me.” He offers her a rare smile. “I might be useless but I’ll make time to listen.”
Korra averts his gaze and blushes. “Thank you,” she whispers, feeling her breath catch in her throat.
Why must she always feel so nervous around him?
“Well,” Mako begins, sliding off the stool and onto his feet, “let’s get out of here and go back home.”
“Yeah—” Korra tips back her glass and drains the last dregs “—let’s go.”
When they exit the tavern, the evening air immediately hits her in the face, giving a somewhat sobering effect. But she drinks it in, noting how good it feels to get out in the cool night air after the stuffy, smoking-smelling stench of the bar. She can literally smell the winter air in the darkness and it sort of reminds her of home.
Then she sees something she wasn’t expecting. Along the edge of the paved walkway and in the dark streets are a bunch of kids, laughing and running with sweets in hands. Behind them are bright, twinkling lights and the magical sound of music filling the air.
“What’s going on?” she asks Mako, accidentally leaning onto him for support.
“It’s the start of the Winter Solstice,” he answers, holding her steady. “The city holds a festival near the pier. They must have set up earlier tonight.”
Korra grins foolishly. She has never been to a carnival before or a festival of any kind. Suddenly she wants to take off in a dead run towards the park, to take in the sights and sounds and the sweet, fragrant scents.
She gives Mako her best puppy-eyed begging expression—the same one she uses on Tenzin—and Mako reluctantly gives in with a scowl (probably since they have to head that way regardless).
“They just set up so I don’t think any of the rides are ready yet.”
Korra ignores him, already running on ahead and quickly glancing over her shoulder.
“But there are booths for food and games!”
After shelling out the yuan to pay for her meal, which consists of some kind of food that Mako wouldn’t dream of putting in his mouth, Korra convinces him to take her to the ring toss.
“Argh! Why can’t I do this?” Korra kicks the stand in frustration, eliciting a mildly terrified look from the vendor. “This game is rigged!”
Korra had thought a ring toss game would be easy; she has perfect aim, after all. But for some reason the ring keeps bouncing off the neck of the bottle. Maybe it’s because she’s still slightly inebriated; whatever the case, she grows increasingly vexed with each toss and is convinced that the game is fixed. What else can explain why she keeps missing?
At this point Mako is standing beside her with his arms crossed and a deep scowl plastered across his face. “If you knew it was rigged, then why did you keep giving my money to the vendor?”
“Cause I don’t have any, obviously!” Korra growls and kicks the booth again for good measure. Her buzz is wearing off and she’s not feeling particularly pleasant at the moment (not that she was feeling like sunshine and rainbows earlier).
“Then how did you pay for your drinks at the bar?”
Korra turns her face up to blink at Mako in mild confusion. “What, you mean you pay for yours?”
Mako glowers, shaking his head in disgust. “Girls.”
“Just shut up, city boy, and win me that stuffed bear thing!”
Mako follows her finger and squints. “That’s a sabre-toothed moose lion.”
“Whatever!” She impatiently points at the doll. “I want it!”
Silently, Mako moves Korra aside and takes up the gauntlet. Buying three more rings, he begins to throw. It turns out he’s quite good at this game, talented in fact. After a few more toss not only does he win Korra the moose lion thing but he also wins her a turtle duck. She squeals with joy when the vendor warily hands her the plush toys.
“How did you do that?” she asks with unmasked envy, cuddling the turtle duck and moose lion to her cheeks. “It’s so not fair. I’m the Avatar. I should be better at these kinds of things than you.”
Mako gives her a look, the ‘you’re-not-nearly-appreciating-my-efforts-the-way-you-should-be’ kind of look.
“But thank you for these,” Korra adds quickly, offering him a rueful grin before rubbing the plushies against her cheek once more to demonstrate her gratitude.
Mako smiles and awkwardly pats her head. “Anything to make you happy again, Korra.”
Korra can feel the tips of her ears burning and she buries her face in the plush toys. She finds herself wishing that every day to be this. How she’d love to be a normal teenage girl on a normal date with the guy she likes. But then the fantasy becomes just that, a fantasy, and she and Mako are already leaving the carnival and heading towards the end of the pier.
Time to return to reality.
The two stand at the edge of the dock, shifting uncomfortably on their feet. Neither knows what to say or do, or how to part, so Korra speaks first.
“Here—” she holds out the plush turtle duck to Mako “—you keep one. You did win them, after all.”
Mako takes the stuffed toy in hand and stares at it for a moment. “I should have won a male and a female turtle duck for you.”
Korra blinks nonplussed. “Huh?”
“Never mind.” He shakes his head, a slight blush creeping up his neck. “Here—” he hands her back the plushy “—you keep the turtle duck. I know you really like it. And I, uh, I’ll take the sabre-toothed moose lion.”
He goes to reach for the toy as Korra extends her hand at the same time and their fingers brush against each other. His touch is electric, and Korra feels as though her heart has been ignited. Both quickly break away, lowering their hands, while Mako stuffs the toy in his pocket and Korra lets out a nervous peal of laughter.
“Thanks again, for everything,” she says, slowly backing up towards the edge of the pier. “I feel much better than I did earlier.”
“Yeah, well—” Mako raises an eyebrow “—remember that for tomorrow when you wake up feeling like the living dead.”
“Don’t worry.” Korra holds the turtle duck up and offers Mako a confident wink. “I’ll still make it in for practice in the morning, living dead feelings withstanding.”
Mako frowns. “I’m not worried about that.” When Korra issues him another confused look, he swallows hard and waves his hand in front of his face before resting it on the back of his neck. “Hey, uh, did you want to stay at the apartment tonight?”
“What?” Korra feels the blood drain from her face and then flood back all at once. “Uh, no, no. No, I’ll just go home.” She dumbly points to Temple Island behind her. “It’s right there, see?”
Mako gives her a dubious look before glancing away, and Korra wonders if the lights from the carnival are playing tricks with her eyes because she can swear the colour of Mako’s face matches the colour of his scarf.
“Are you sure you’ll be alright to get there on your own?”
Korra nods emphatically and then realises that Mako can’t see her since he’s too busy looking in the other direction.
“Yup. Water is my mother element, after all.”
She laughs at her own lame joke, and then Mako turns, his amber eyes meeting hers. He looks all serious again.
“I’ll be fine.” She swallows hard, an effulgence of colour blossoming on her cheeks. “Thank you, Mako.”
The words are said with the utmost sincerity. In her wildest dreams Korra never imagined Mako to be this kind to her, to be so compassionate. Maybe this is a dream and she’ll wake up the next morning to discover that none of this ever happened. The thought alone makes her want to simultaneously vomit and cry.
“You’re welcome, Korra.” Mako pauses and meets her eyes for a brief moment before turning back down the pier. “See you tomorrow.”
“Bright and early!” Korra says to his retreating form before burying her face into the plush turtle duck and letting out a frustrated moan. “Yeah, bright and early,” she mumbles. “What a cool reply, idiot.”
Korra lifts her head, following Mako with her eyes, and sighs. No matter how hard she tries she cannot escape these feelings; she cannot escape him. If this is what it means to be a normal teenage girl, then she’d rather skip this phase in her life. And if love is meant to be this complicated, this heart-breaking, then she’d rather not have it. It’s just too damn much.
But still . . .
Korra’s an instigator, a catalyst, and someday she’ll light a fire under Mako’s ass. And maybe someday he’ll finally take notice.
Chapter 14: Tahno
His memory of last night is a blur of alcohol and smoke and the double-syllable caw of his name being bleated in his ear by some girl whose name he cannot recall, and who has yet to leave his bed.
The morning light—if it is indeed morning—filters through the small window above, slinking softly up his naked torso until it finds his face. He squints and lifts his hand, shielding his eyes from the harsh glare before stretching with a sort of feline grace. Beside him he can feel the smooth shapely limbs of some undoubtedly slender girl. She stirs as he wakes, pressing full, soft breasts into his side, and he groans. All he can feel right now is a hammer pounding inside his head and the narrowing pinpoint of a clammy sort of churning in his gut. When she begins to cling tighter he shoves her off. Naked, sweaty flesh peals away and he slumps into a sitting position, holding his head in his hands before sloughing off towards the toilet.
The floorboards creak as he walks down the stairs to get some breakfast (or is it lunch time now?) and another drink—anything to end this fucking hangover. With food lining his belly, he’ll go back upstairs and order the strange girl out of his bed. Or, if he’s fortunate, she’ll take the walk of shame out of the tavern while he’s still eating.
He laughs at the thought before palming a hand over his eyes. Yawning, he stops dead in his tracks when he sees the Avatar seated at a table in the far corner. She’s hunched over a bowl of noodles, eating like there’s no tomorrow.
Maybe it is noon.
She stirs, probably having felt his eyes upon her, and directs a half-hearted glare in his direction before returning to her meal. Tahno lowers his hand and frowns. Her presence is so jarring that he cannot help but stare, ignoring the hunger (or vomit) growling in his stomach. Very rarely is he caught off-guard, and he blinks twice just to make sure that she’s real and not some drunken hallucination. After the second blink, when she’s still there, he lets out a soft ‘humph’ before absently running a hand down his chest. He is half-naked and his hair is stuck up and tousled by restless sleep. He is quite certain she has never seen him so unkempt and for some reason this bothers him.
His blue silk pyjama bottoms pool over bare feet as he walks over to her table, ignoring the countless eyes on him. He takes the seat across from her and leers.
“What are you doing here?” she barks, unperturbed by his half-naked appearance. He raises his brow in mild shock; he would have figured her for the blushing type.
Under her scrutiny, he unconsciously flips back his hair. “That should be my question, Avatar,” he says, his voice dark and rich. “I live here.”
“You live here—” she glances around the joint “—in the bar?”
He snorts derisively. “No. Upstairs in the loft, idiot.”
“You’re the idiot,” she mutters; her blue eyes narrow and then the tips of her ears turn pink.
Finally, a blush—an angry blush—and his grin turns predatory.
“So, what are you doing here, Avatar?”
He leans forward on his forearms, and she lifts her chopsticks, pointing to the bowl in front of her.
“I’m eating lunch. What does it look like?”
He watches her shovel the noodles into her mouth and leans back, grimacing. “If that’s eating then the rest of us are doing it wrong.”
“Oh, ha ha,” she mumbles between bites before sucking back a slippery noodle. “Don’t you have some Sleazebending to do elsewhere?”
“No, I’m perfectly content right here.” He keeps his eyes trained on her while he raises his hand, signalling the barkeep. “Ticy, a glass of rice wine and the usual.”
The bartender nods and the Avatar’s brow furrows in disapproval.
“Drinking so early in the morning?”
“Who says I’ve stopped since last night?” He spreads his arms wide in supplication before leaning back on his chair. “Besides, that’s what us Sleazebenders do.”
She puffs out her bottom lip in keen thought as she mulls over his words. He wonders if she knows that her defiant glare looks more like an adorable pout. In any case, he won’t tell her—not yet.
“Aren’t you worried about being too tired for the match tonight?” she asks, slumping back in her seat. “I’m pretty sure you can’t show up drunk. Not that I fully understand—or even read—the rules.”
“Why would I be worried?” He shrugs nonchalantly. “I’m just facing off with a trio of rookie losers.”
Her right eye twitches at this, and he can’t resist issuing her a lazy smirk before snapping his fingers.
“It’ll be a cinch.”
“I wouldn’t count us out so easily,” she growls, and his smirk widens to a grin.
“No, I wouldn’t count you out so easily.”
He holds her gaze, gauging her reaction to his compliment. Most girls would turn away and blush. The Avatar just stares through him, or maybe into him, with the harsh lens of reality. He suddenly feels uncomfortable, almost awkward, and unaccustomedly struggling for words.
“You know, I saw your first match,” he idly comments, trying a new tactic.
“Ah—” she blushes softly in embarrassment “—you were at that game?”
A small smile of victory curves his lips. “You were horrible,” he tells her, silky crooning lies from a snake bastard. “But if it weren’t for you, those street rats wouldn’t have stood a chance in the tournament.”
Her cheeks are burning red in anger now. “Mako and Bolin were doing just fine before I came along!”
“Mako, huh?” He snorts. “Right. The Firebender. Y’know—” he leans in close “—even with the Avatar on his side, a loser like him can’t change his colours.”
She sits back in her chair and glares at him hard. He’s hit a nerve. He can almost feel the ice in the air, and though he should be wary he cannot help but smirk triumphantly. The Avatar then picks up her drink and tilts it back, swallowing the last of the dregs all the while watching him, as though daring him to say something else. She sets the glass back down on the table and belches rather nladylike.
“Well, I suppose there’s a certain kind of logic to that. It takes one to know one, right?” She licks her lips and offers him a wry grin. “Who better to flush out the scent of loser than the biggest loser of all?”
His nostrils flare and he glances at her sideways, his gaze lingering on the boneless way she slumps against the chair. She is totally uninhibited. Unafraid. It’s brazen and annoying, but so very refreshing.
“You’re feisty,” he admits after a moment’s pause. “I like that in a woman.”
Suddenly she laughs, a lilting crack of sound that resonates through the bar. “Careful there, pretty boy,” she cautions. “You’re coming off as one step above a creepy Sleazebender, and I might just end up not loathing you entirely. Then what would happen?”
He ponders the notion for a second before smirking. “The world would stop turning, I suppose.”
She laughs again, and this time he almost feels like joining her. “Wouldn’t want that to happen, now would we?”
“No.” He leans back in his seat and cocks his head to the side, really taking in her form.
She’s not the best-looking woman he’s ever seen but she’s fit and tight with the most killer blue eyes he’s ever seen. On top of the undoubtedly soft and curvy body hidden beneath those baggy clothes is a woman with strength and personality—and a remarkable sense of humour. It’s the first time he’s really looked at a woman beyond her looks, and he cannot deny that he’s intrigued by her undeniable presence.
“So, do you want to go out after the match and get a drink? After we defeat your Fire Ferrets, of course.”
“Who says you’ll win?”
She snorts. “You’re pretty confident.”
“So are you.” He offers her a wink. “Maybe it’s a Waterbender thing.”
“Seriously—” he leans in “—I’d like to get to know you better outside the ring.” His eyes linger on her for a moment before meeting her gaze. “I think you and I could have a lot of fun together. How about it, Avatar?”
She rolls her eyes, but there’s an effulgence of colour on her cheeks. It’s downright adorable.
“Yeah, not a snowball’s chance in the Fire Nation, pretty boy.”
He laughs. “C’mon, I’m curious about you.”
“You’re curious about me because I’m the Avatar,” she says, waving her hand in front of her face. “Some famous, talented bender.”
“Who said you were talented?” he asks dryly.
Her eyes widen for a moment and then she squints up at him in a facsimile of a glare. “This really isn’t an act for you, is it?”
“Being a jerk.”
No, there’s nothing put-on about his personality at all.
“I’m the best Pro-bending Waterbender there is, Avatar,” he says lowly, cocking his head to the side. “It’s not an act; it’s a fact.”
Disgusted, she breathes a hot jet of air out through her nose and throws some money down on the table before kicking back her chair to stand. He doesn’t bother to get up.
“My offer still stands,” he says, looking up at her.
“Those private lessons.” His grin turns wolfish when he sees a hint of pink creep up her neck.
“No thanks,” she mutters, and is about to turn when she places a hand on her hip. “You can do one thing for me, though.”
He lifts a thin eyebrow, intrigued. “And what is that?”
“Bring that cocky attitude of yours to the ring, pretty boy,” she threatens. “I intend to wipe the floor with it.”
“Oh, I will, Avatar,” he purrs, locking eyes with her until she finally turns to leave. “I will.”
He watches her exit the bar. Not once does she look back, and he cannot help but smile. This Avatar Korra is someone special—of that he has no doubts. It is as though she has become the last remnant of a teenage fantasy that he no longer thought was possible for him.
Plainly put, she’s a challenge.
And tonight, when he is with some other woman, he will imagine the Avatar’s thighs wrapped around his waist and her pouty lips on his neck. And though some nameless girl will fill the role for now, he takes comfort in the fact that someday that girl will be the Avatar. Someday she will accept his private lessons.
I recommend listening to Chongthenomad’s electro house remix of “Private Lessons” featuring Tahno.
Chapter 15: Comfort
Warning: This is borderline smut. I promise that any smut I write for this series will be separate from this collection and properly labelled; however, this particular one-shot is rather steamy. Nothing is explicit, but you have been warned.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Mako looks a mess. Both of his eyes are already starting to swell shut and discolour. His nose is broken and still slowly oozing blood. Both of his lips are split and the blood has made its way down his chin, staining his neck and shirt. There are the beginnings of bruises at his temples and there are other bruises farther down his body—bruises that he will discover one day at a time for weeks to come.
Korra’s hands are on his face and he tilts his head back to get a better look at her. She is straddling over top of him on the chair; her breathing is frenetic and uneven like his own. Her hair is snarled and wild around her face. There are droplets of his blood on her neck and tunic, mixed with messy smears of her own blood painted across her cheeks.
She looks positively beautiful.
Her weight presses into him, comforting and solid, and the very feel of her in his lap is like a balm and blight all at once; it’s painful and forbidden, yet somehow right. She is right, and he has never felt more alive and more thrumming with life than he has in years—maybe ever—not until Korra came into his life.
She drops her hands from his face and brings her fingers to her mouth, subconsciously licking at his blood. He tenses, his lower body becoming rigid. He watches her fingers and her lips and he feels a tightness coil inside his groin. He knows that his arousal is common, that it is part of the psychology of violence; it is his body coming down from after the adrenaline of the fight, the testosterone racing through his bloodstream. But part of it is the blood itself, the bruising, the cadence of her hand against his skin and bone.
It is the intimacy of the act itself.
She stands very still, her fingers still in her mouth, and looks down at him with heavy lidded eyes. Mako swallows hard, the fluttering wing-beats of desire travelling up his abdomen. It is moments like these that he forgets why they argue so much, why they clash so brightly. He is simply taken in by her uniqueness, her striking yet undefinable charm.
“I’m going to heal you now,” she says, removing her fingers from her mouth.
He nods dumbly, watching her gather the water—the gentle flick and curl of her wrists—before applying the icy liquid to his face. Her fingers are cool and refreshing on his skin, and he closes his eyes as she lightly traces fingertips over his lips and the bridge of his nose. He can feel the healing liquid permeate skin and bone, knitting the fragments together.
She draws her hands away, still glowing blue like the colour of her eyes, and puts them to her own face. It’s amazing how a single look from her can make him weak, clearing all sensible thoughts from his mind.
He stands, reaching out to cup her hands with his, tracing invisible lines over her skin with the pads of his thumb. He doesn’t know why he’s doing this. It’s not as though he can help her heal herself. But to touch her so intimately almost feels like a sin, ripened fruit from the forbidden tree. She is his unrequited dream.
Her eyes are wide like liquid pools of sapphire, and he finds himself lost in their depths. He has always been afraid of getting lost in her, of wanting more than what is safe to pursue. She is like a heroine out of a long-forgotten myth, blurring the line between what is real and imagined. But he cannot deny the invisible pull she has on him or the indescribable need he has to be with her. She has quickly become an immutable force in his life, unwavering and steadfast like a tattoo on his heart.
But how can he allow such a beautiful myth to be real? What does he have to offer? How can he measure up? How can he possibly keep someone like her? He doesn’t know, but what he does know is that he’ll do anything to have her to himself.
Suddenly she is lunging forward and kissing him hard, her hands cupping his still-bruised face. Her kisses are hot and erratic and painful. He can feel his swollen lip being sucked into her mouth as her teeth scrape across the tender flesh, and he groans. When she finally breaks away, licking wetly across his bloodied lip, she rests her forehead against his. He can barely pull a coherent thought from the vortex that is his mind before she’s pulling away.
She doesn’t speak; she merely retreats, embarrassed or something else. He grabs her by the wrist, unsure exactly why he is stopping her except for the fact that he doesn’t want to let her go. She spins around and their eyes meet, wild and searching. He only studies her body language for a half-second before pushing her back against the wall. A breathless gasp escapes her throat and that sound alone galvanises him into action. His hands reach for her waist and he presses into her, already hot and erect.
His mouth is on her throat, trailing cruel incisors down her neck. Red and pink marks blossom in the wake of his teeth. He pulls back to look at her, keeping his face inches away from hers. Their lips aren’t touching but he can feel the buzzing heat of their proximity. She lunges forward trying to kiss him again, but he places a large palm over her mouth and shoves her head back against the wall. She snarls from behind his hand, darting out her tongue to lick at his palm, trying to catch the loose flesh between her teeth. He silently laughs at her attempts and lowers his hand to the waist of her trousers, slipping his fingers inside.
Korra gasps, her eyes widening in shock, as Mako’s fingers force their way between her legs. Any interest she’d had in dominating him vanish entirely, and Mako cannot help but smile smugly. Instead Korra chokes out a moan and her hands move from his arms to his throat. Long fingers creep round and up the back of his neck, weaving through fine black hairs and tugging gently. He lets out a moan as his eyes threaten to roll up into the back of his head.
Korra just stares at him, fearless and impertinent, even as he curls his fingers towards his own body. He presses resolutely against her muscular inner walls, his fingertips palpating the raised spot inside of her. She bucks against him, embarrassed, confused, and thrilled all at once, and with his free hand he gathers a fistful of hair and yanks back.
She cries out and he can feel her tremble, struggling to breathe. Then he is letting go of her hair and pulling her away from the wall, lowering her down onto the bed. He is swift and silent, on top of her before she can even speak, and their clothing is shed until there is nothing left between them but naked layers of heated skin. He glances down her nubile form, admiring every last detail of her body and committing it all to memory. She glances away shyly, almost coyly, an effulgence of colour blossoming on her cheeks. He grabs her by the chin and forces her to meet his eyes as he positions himself in front of her.
He can feel her breath on his cheek as he runs hot, dry palms reverently up her thighs, sliding them apart and pushing into her. Both of them sigh at the warm, wet contact, and she winds her arms around his neck. Her eyes slip shut and his hips begin to move, rolling into her as she arches her back. Then she’s reaching up to touch his face, venerating him with light kisses. She traces the lines at the corners of his eyes, the cut of his cheeks, and the gnashing line of his jaw as his hands bear down on her hips.
Suddenly the tempo of their rhythm picks up, reaching a feverish pitch. But instead of being overcome and giving into the raw, primal emotion, everything starts to come together in an almost slow, groggy haze. Each thrust, each innocent butterfly touch is accentuated as their bodies meet. The atmosphere between them is thick and palpable. Sweetly suffocating.
Blistering tracks of tears run down Korra’s cheeks, and Mako reaches out with a free hand to touch her bruised skin.
Her name is low in his throat, breathed like a prayer. She smiles, opening watery eyes—those beautiful blue eyes of hers, so deep and loving—and he cannot bear to look away. She is so strong, the strongest person he knows, yet with him she allows herself to be vulnerable. She is always providing him with comfort, yet what has he given her? Why can he never tell her how he truly feels? Maybe he’s afraid—afraid to love her for the fear that one day she will disappear, dissolving into the blood and water of his dreams.
But she is here now. She is solid and pliable beneath him. She has opened herself to him, again, but is it enough to simply offer her his body and heart without the words? The words, those damn words that threaten to wound his fragile ego. Can he say them without the fear of being hurt? Can he trust her with his heart?
She moans against his cheek and suddenly he rears back up, running his hands up both sides of her face, holding her head in place. “Korra, I lo—”
Her mouth is on his, effectively silencing his confession with a kiss. Her hands slide down from his neck to his chest, frantically trying to touch every inch of his skin. He returns the act in kind, not entirely sure when his own feelings turned so frenetic, so frenzied. He just needs to touch her, to comfort her with his body, to be comforted by her.
He runs his thumbs over the tear-lines on her face and keeps his hands there, watching her as they move together towards their shared, rising pinpoint of a goal. Korra smiles brightly, blinking away tears, and brings her hands up to his face. She presses her fingers to his mouth and sighs:
“I need you.”
Her words, spun like the music playing against his ear, make him speed up. The sound of their flesh creates their own drumming beat, a radiant percussion of shared heartbeats. Korra arches her back and he bends down, kissing her as he cries out into her mouth, imparting into her all his pains and fears and doubts.
She may need him, but she is his comfort. Before she came along he had been lost and hadn’t even known it. But in the end it is very feel of her, the arches and curves and soft lines of her skin against his, that wrench him back to the truth: she is his—she has always been his—and nothing else in this world really matters.
The tremors finally dissipate and he takes in a deep breath before shifting, rolling off her and onto his back. Both stare up at the ceiling, trying to catch their breath, before Korra turns to pillow her cheek against his chest. They lie like this for a while, watching the watery light pool in from beneath the curtains as Mako strokes patterns on the skin of Korra’s shoulder with his thumb.
“Thank you,” he whispers, feeling the heavy mist of sleep wash over him.
A heartbeat of silence passes between them before he feels Korra stir in his embrace, lifting her chin against his chest to glance up at him.
“Thank me for what?”
He pulls her in close. “For being you.”
She doesn’t say anything; she doesn’t need to. But he can feel her smiling against his skin and he is content despite the pain and soreness settling in his limbs. She is his, fully and completely and without any doubts. And for once in his life he has found someone he needs, someone who comforts him, and he’ll be damned if he’ll let her slip away.
Chapter 16: Fantasy
It’s Makorra Week! Expect seven drabbles/ficlets to be posted every day for the next seven days. For more information—and to see the art submissions for MW—please visit the #Makorra group on DeviantART.
(n) the faculty or activity of imagining things that are impossible or improbable; (v) to imagine the occurrence of; fantasise about.
Look, I really like you and I think we are meant for each other!
She has been in every single one of his dreams—ever since she had the audacity to confess to him.
I’m really sorry, but I just don’t feel the same way about you . . .
She is the first thing on his mind when he wakes up in the morning; she is the last thought he has before he goes to bed. She is the ghost of old wounds on his heart, and everyday he has to busy himself however he can—anything to push away the images of Korra from his mind.
Forget I ever said anything . . .
But he can’t forget what she said; he can’t forget her. If only he could extract her from his mind and extricate himself from her world. But she is Korra; her world has become his, intertwined and co-dependent.
Naked, he steps into the shower and shuts the door noiselessly behind him. Turning on the tap, the water immediately runs scalding hot, burning his skin red.
It’s always hot in his dreams; sparse and dry, instead of the heavy steam that rises from the water. But then the dream would always shift to her, and suddenly the heat becomes too much—too humid, too enveloping, too suffocating. She consumes him.
Running his fingers through his hair, Mako stands under the spray for what feels like forever; water pounding away at his heat-reddened skin. His mind begins to wander and he imagines her finding her way into his bathroom, rubbing her eyes with the sleeve of one of his shirts. She sheds his clothes and climbs into the shower behind him, wrapping her arms around his waist. Pressing her breasts into his back, she stands on her toes, trailing warm kissing up his back and shoulder until she reached the crook of his neck. He sighs contently and turns; their lips almost touching as her hands move lower down his waist, holding him tightly until the hot water runs out.
Then the daydream fades and the real world returns. The water is already cold. He turns off the tap and leans forward, resting his forehead against the cool tile. Beads of water make wet trails down his back, as if tracing her imagined kisses. He sighs. Now she’s haunting his waking dreams with the ghosts of her touch and searing-hot kisses—kisses that have begun to feel like an apology for the violence and the temptation she has wreaked upon his subconscious.
Chapter 17: Noir
(n) black, dark; (adj) suggestive of danger or violence; of or relating to the film noir genre; of or relating to a genre of crime literature featuring tough, cynical characters and bleak settings.
Mako stood over the body with his hands stuffed in his pockets, a half-spent cigarette dangling from between his lips.
“This isn’t what it looks like,” the brunette said defensively, a tremor in her voice.
Taking the cigarette out of his mouth, Mako turned to regard the young woman with critical eyes. She was anxiously pacing about, her eyes flitting from the body to the dark alleyway behind them. Her normally beautifully tanned skin had turned a sickly ashen-paled colour, and she looked ready to bolt as she constantly rubbed her palms up and down the length of her trousers.
“No?” Mako queried, pointing his cigarette at the ground. “So this poor shmo ain’t dead, then?”
“I—” she stopped short and began to wring her hands nervously, failing to meet his eyes “—I just—”
“Save the explanations for the cops, or someone who gives a damn!”
Mako regarded the girl coldly for a moment before dropping his cigarette on the cement and grounding it out with his heel. As he turned to leave her hand suddenly shot out from behind, gripping him forcefully by the forearm.
“Get yer paws off me!” he spat, snatching his hand away as though her very touch had burnt him.
“Please, Mako—” her pleading eyes entreated “—you’ve got to believe me.”
“I ain’t got to do nothing for you anymore, sweetheart.” He reached into his pocket and took out his cigarette case.
“But this is all just a misunderstanding.”
“Is it now?” he asked humorously, lighting a fresh cigarette. “I’d say that stiff lying at your feet is about as crystal clear as it can get.”
“Listen, lady—” he rounded on her, pointing an accusing finger in her face “—let’s get one thing straight: you’ve been lying to me since the moment you stepped into my office. You’ve done nothing but play me for a fool.”
She recoiled at his words, as though she had just been slapped. “No, you’re wrong!”
“Wrong, am I? Then prove it to me.” He reached out, lightning-quick, and grabbed her by the waist, pulling her in close so that she couldn’t escape. “Convince me you ain’t some two-bit con lady, that you ain’t Republic City’s next femme fatale.” He shook her roughly in his arms. “C’mon!”
He pushed her back, giving her a disgusted look. “You ain’t nothing but trouble.”
Mako didn’t even bother to give her a second glance. Instead, he flipped up the collar of his trench coat and adjusted his fedora, pulling the brim down low before he gave her a half-hearted wave.
“Hope to never see you again, kid.”
She was yelling at his back, but he just kept on walking. He wouldn’t be fooled again.
“I’m the Avatar!”
She’s the what?
One week earlier . . .
It was midday; the sounds of the busy streets below carried high into the office building, but they did not bother Mako. He was used to the sights and sounds of Republic City. Resting his feet on his desk, the detective slowly turned the page of his book while lifting a cigarette to his lips.
“What is it, Bolin?” he asked, not bothering to look up from his book as he spent the last drag of his cigarette.
His brother, Bolin, was leaning against the doorframe. A goofy grin was plastered across his face, and for Mako that meant nothing but trouble.
“There’s a woman here to see you,” Bolin answered, the goofy grin still set on his round face. “Name’s Korra. Looks to be Southern Water Tribe.”
“Water Tribe?” Mako glanced up, a look of surprise registering on his features. It was rare to see someone from the South Pole in a city like this. “A client?”
Bolin made a non-committal sound at the back of his throat before shrugging. “I’d guess so since this is a detective agency. Unless you’ve got another business going on the side that I don’t know about.” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively. “But then that’d make you her client, wouldn’t it?”
An angry blush blossomed across Mako’s cheeks and he violently stabbed his cigarette into the brass ashtray on his desk.
“Just let her in, idiot,” he mumbled, snatching another cigarette from the silver case he kept in his breast pocket.
Grinning to himself, Bolin offered his older brother a mock salute before turning through the doorway and disappearing down the hallway to the outer office. Tapping the cigarette on the case, Mako listened as the woman gave his brother thanks.
He frowned thoughtfully. There was no tap, no soft click of heels on the wooden floor. Of course he suspected as much; the woman was Water Tribe after all. And if he were to believe his brother assessment that she was from the South, Mako couldn’t very well expect the girl to be some breathless dame dressed in the latest fashion like the beauties of Republic City. Still, Mako had never seen a woman from the Southern Water Tribe, and he was curious. Very curious.
The door to his office swung wide open as the client confidently strode through. She was taller than he had expected and pliantly slender; toned was perhaps a better word. She was young too, close to his age, dressed in what he assumed was her native attire—colours of blue with tanned boots and a strip of fur-lined hide that she wore in a tied fashion across her waist. Any thoughts he might have had about her resembling a boy vanished the moment his gaze travelled downwards, taking in the wonderful curves of her body. The fluid folds of her top clung to her chest and hips, bringing attention to her high breasts and flat stomach. Her legs were long but he couldn’t make out their shapeliness through the bagginess of her trousers. But what he could tell was that she was fit all over.
His gaze then roamed back up her body to her smooth, oval face, and he was almost taken aback by the shape and colour of her eyes. They were wide and blue and entirely captivating. What made them stand out even more was how they contrasted against the umber-tanned colour of her skin, like mocha cream. With chestnut brown hair done up in a high ponytail, accentuated with blue beads that almost matched the colour of her eyes, she at once appeared both unique and captivating.
So this was a woman from the Southern Water Tribe?
Her large blue eyes darted from side to side, taking in the lay of the room before settling on him. Feeling uneasy for only a moment—she had a strong, penetrating gaze—Mako rose to his feet and bowed formally. He then gestured with a large hand to the leather chair in front of his desk, and Korra glanced up at his exceedingly tall stature and blushed slightly, muttering a shy thank you before taking the seat. Adjusting his tie, Mako offered Korra a thin but polite smile before sinking back down into his plush leather chair.
The two then stared at each other for a moment, his discarded cigarette still smouldering in the brass tray; its filigree curls of smoke filled his nostrils, tempting him to light another. Picking up his cigarette from the desk, he tapped it lightly on the silver surface of the case before opening the lid with one hand and offering the brunette a cigarette. She scrunched her nose in disgust and declined with a blunt shake of her hand, causing Mako to chuckle to himself. Smiling, he sat back in his chair and brought the fresh cigarette to his lips, slipping the case back inside his breast pocket. With the cigarette jutted between his teeth, he snapped his fingers, igniting a small flame and lighting the cigarette without any further preamble.
His eyes then narrowed to her full, pouty lips as he inhaled. She might not have been much of a dresser, but she was certainly a looker. What had been said about Southern Water Tribe women was indeed the truth: their eyes were absolutely breath-taking.
The girl in front of him was undoubtedly confident, fuelled with a sort of swagger he had rarely seen in men let alone women. She was certainly strong, most likely a master Waterbender despite her age; however, the longer she sat in that chair the more nervous and uneasy she became. Observing the brunette’s fidgety movements with keen amber eyes, Mako took a long drag of his cigarette and exhaled. Something heavy obviously weighed on this girl’s conscious, and Mako was curious to discover what.
“What can I do for you, Miss Korra?”
She seemed startled by his voice at first, as though she was not used to being addressed in such a manner. Or maybe his voice was deeper than she had expected—or maybe she hadn’t anticipated a conversation at all.
“I was wondering if you could help me find someone.”
Her voice was soft and kind, kinder than he had expected. He smiled at her reassuringly.
“That’s what we do here.” He then leaned over and opened the top drawer of his desk, pulling out a notepad and pen. “If you could just give me this someone’s name and description.”
When she failed to answer him straight-away, he looked up in anticipation. She was worrying her bottom lip with her teeth, as though trying to fight off her own embarrassment.
“The thing is—I only know his nickname.”
“Yeah, uhm, it’s Amon.”
Mako’s eyes widened in shock. “Amon?”
“You know him?”
Mako carefully schooled his features and leaned back in his chair. “Not personally. I know of him, though.” He tapped his pen on the notepad. “What business do you have with him, if you don’t mind me asking? That is, why would a girl like you be looking for a guy like that?”
Korra suddenly looked affronted. “A girl like me?” Her eyes narrowed dangerously, showing great power. “What’s that supposed to me?”
“It means yer a bender, ain’t ya?”
She quickly shut her mouth, looking both annoyed and embarrassed before answering him with a slow nod. “Yeah, what’s your point?”
“My point is that he’s an anti-bender.” Mako deliberately ran his tongue along his left incisor with a soft hiss. “Just doesn’t sit right, if you know what I mean.”
Korra looked down at her lap and let out a defeated sigh. “The thing is—he’s my father.”
Mako almost choked on his own phlegm before barking back a cough attack. Finally composing himself, he leaned in close—so close that Korra jerked back, skittish, with a certain kind of doe-eyed look to her. It was rather fetchingly distracting that he almost forgot his point.
“Look I don’t know how much you know about this guy, Amon, but he’s an Equalist. He’s not the type to look favourably on bending.”
She took in a deep breath and levelled her gaze on him. “My mother said that a man named Amon was my father and he lived in Republic City—and that’s the man I want to find.”
“And you’d like to meet this dear ol’ dad or yers, eh?” Mako asked casually, sitting back and flicking the ashes of his cigarette into the brass tray. “Or rather you’d like to know more about him before ya do?”
She smiled and nodded, letting out a sigh of relief, as though he was the first person to truly understand her.
“Well, then let’s start the paper work. Shall we?” He opened up the notepad and brought his cigarette to his lips, taking one last drag before snuffing it out.
Korra stared at him blankly for a moment before jumping in her seat, as though remembering something she had forgot. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out a small felt pouch and placed it on the desk. Loosening the strings, she pulled out several silver coins and placed them on Mako’s outstretched palm.
“It’s not much,” she admitted with a soft blush of embarrassment. “But this is all I can spare for now. I promise to give you more tomorrow.”
Mako took the money with a nod and slipped them into his pocket; the metal tink of the coins hitting the cigarette case meant he could afford meat tonight for him and his brother. It wasn’t much, but Mako had a feeling this case was worth the small fee. If anything, it was worth it just to see those luscious lips and beautiful blue eyes of Korra every day.
Yeah, maybe he’d take on this case for a couple of days—a couple of weeks even. This Korra girl certainly seemed worth it. Or at least he hoped.
This is my only fic in this collection written in the past tense. It's not like I'm against using past tense. Normally I reserve it for stand-alone one-shots and chaptered fics, not a drabble/ficlet collection. However, I felt the tense to be rather fitting here, considering the theme I'm using. It gives it a darker, dated atmosphere, in my opinion.
Chapter 18: Genderbender
(v) a person who actively transgresses or “bends” expected gender roles; (n) in fiction, characters who undergo changes in their physical sex—magically or otherwise—throughout the story; in art, it is the challenging of gender roles or it features gender bending or transgender characters.
“Don’t sit like that!”
Korra is shooting metaphorical daggers at Mako, who is seated next to her on the couch. He is slouched low; his legs spread so wide that his right knee is touching hers. She forcefully knocks his knee away, mumbling darkly to herself.
“I can’t help it,” Mako whines, shifting uncomfortable on the cushion. “It feels like there’s an eel between my legs. I can’t even properly sit.” He snakes his hand down between his legs, cupping his groin. “Maybe if I move it around a little, tuck it in.”
“NO!” Mortified, Korra slaps Mako’s hand away. “Don’t touch it!”
“Sheesh! Alright, alright.” Mako leans back and rests his arms on the back of the couch, a sour look surfacing on his face before he props his legs open once more. “Chill out, already. Just relax.”
“Relax?” Korra’s eyes narrow dangerously on the Firebender. “Please don’t talk like that with my voice.”
“Yeah, well don’t be a priss like that in my body!”
“Whose voice and whose body?”
Mako and Korra turn around to see Tenzin standing in the doorway.
“Would one of you like to explain what is going on here?” His hands are clasped together in a patient, fatherly manner.
“Uh, well, you see . . .” Mako pauses, a guilty expression hanging on his face. “There are these circumstances, and—”
“We switched bodies,” Korra finished bluntly, pointing to herself and then to Mako. “She’s me and I’m her.”
“Right,” Tenzin says hesitantly. “Really?”
“Really.” Korra turns back around; sulkily crossing her arms uncomfortably over her breasts before letting them fall to her sides. “This is hell!”
Tenzin blinks nonplussed for a moment before letting out a disgruntled sigh. “All right, tell me everything—” he brings his thumb and middle finger to the bridge of his nose “—and start from the beginning.”
Yesterday . . .
Mako rolls over on his side, groggily waking from a bizarre dream he is already beginning to forget. His mind is still drifting through the haze of phantom images when he finally opens his eyes, experiencing a brief sense of disorientation. He struggles to remember the dream, but already the scraps of images and sounds that were so vivid moments ago, are fading. All that remains is the strange, uncomfortable feeling of dissociation, as though he is someone else.
The glare of the morning sun is harsh on his eyes, and while he is the type to rise early, he suddenly feels irritable—as though the morning sun is an evil entity. He decides to close his eyes and turn away, rolling onto his stomach to get some more sleep, but there’s a problem with that. A big problem. Or rather it’s two big problems.
Rolling over onto his back with a grunt, Mako brings his hands to his chest, cupping the round mounds where a much flatter, far less endowed chest used to be. He squeezes harder, as if to make sure that they are real. They’re soft and round and firm. He can’t help but play with them in wonder before his jaw drops open in dawning horror.
“Wha-what the hell are these?” he roars, swiftly sitting up in bed.
The breasts move with him and he continues groping them, entirely baffled by the extra flesh he’s sporting. He starts thinking what could cause this. He hasn’t worked out in a while, but it couldn’t be this bad—could it? No, it’s more than that. He feels slimmer somehow, and shorter. Moving his hands from his newly-formed breasts to the smooth dip of his waist, he hesitantly makes his way down to his crotch. Fingers pat blindly, feeling the empty space where an obvious bulge used to inhabit and he jerks his hand away in terrifying realisation.
A womanly scream fills the room. Bewildered, Mako recognises it as his own voice and is about to yell again when the door to his room suddenly slides open. Jinora, still in her pyjamas, runs inside. Panic and confusion are written all across her tiny face.
“Korra, what is it? Are you okay?”
“Korra?” Mako blinks nonplussed, his hands reaching back up to cup his new breasts. Again, that feminine voice, and since when were his hands this tanned? “Mirror!” he shouts. “I need a mirror!”
Taken aback, Jinora blinks twice and then points at the floor-length mirror beside the wardrobe. Mako throws back the sheets and practically leaps out of bed, running over to the mirror that is about to answer his questions. Sucking in a deep breath, he takes in his own image before letting out a blood-curdling scream.
“WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?”
Bolin is bolted awake by the sound of his brother shouting. Turning swiftly, he promptly falls out of bed, along with Pabu. He sits up, shaking the sleep out of his head, and climbs up the side of the mattress to see what the heck his brother is bellowing about.
“Mako, what’s wrong?”
Mako is sitting on the bed with the sheets pulled back and has the waistband of his pyjama bottoms stretched out so far that another person could fit inside. There’s a mixed look of wonderment and disgust on his face, and he’s gazing so intently that Bolin starts to get nervous.
“What the hell is this thing between my legs?” Mako shouts; his eyes are glued intently to that ‘thing’.
“Wait, Mako?” Mako suddenly lets go of the waistband of his bottoms and turns to look at Bolin, his look of wonder transforming to that of terror. “Bolin, what are you doing in my room?”
“Your room?” Bolin is beginning to feel very lost. “This is our room.”
“Our room?” Mako looks down at his hands, his very large, pale hands. “Mirror! I need a mirror! NOW!”
Bolin nervously points at the closet, and Mako jumps up out of bed. Rushing to the closet door, he slides it open—his own devilishly handsome face looking back at him in the mirror.
“SON OF A B—”
The door to the bedroom slides open with a loud bang. Korra is standing in the threshold; her hair is sticking up in every which direction and half of the buttons on her pyjama top are undone. She had a deranged look in her eyes as she suddenly points an accusing finger at Mako.
“YOU!” she roars. “You did this to me!”
“I did not!” Mako replies in a voice much higher pitched than Bolin was used to.
“Yes, you did!”
“Did not! You must have done something!”
“Okay,” Bolin interjects with raised hands, stepping out from behind the bed, “settle down you two, and someone explain to me what the heck is going on.”
Bolin drops his hands. “I didn’t even get half of that.”
“We switched bodies,” Korra explains in an annoyed manner before pointing to Mako. “Korra is in my body and I’m in hers.”
Bolin squints at Korra for a moment before it suddenly dawns on him. “Mako? Is that you?”
Bolin looks from Mako (in Korra’s body) to Korra (in Mako’s body) to Korra again. Taking in Korra’s dishevelled form, which involved a fair amount of cleavage, Bolin steps back behind the bed and picks up a pillow, placing it in front of himself.
“This is weird,” Bolin admits with an unusual pitch to his tone, “and awkward. And I don’t know what to think about this—or you—right now, so I’m gonna stand over here.”
“How did this happen?” Korra asks, ignoring Bolin as she leans Mako’s body against the wall.
“I don’t know.”
“What did you guys do last night?” Bolin asks, still hiding behind the pillow.
“Nothing!” Korra cries defensively, almost slipping off the wall. Damn this lanky body! What does he have eat to get this tall? “I mean, the three of us were all together last night.”
Mako nods, absently fiddling with the buttons on Korra’s pyjamas. “Right, we all ate together and celebrated the Moon Spirit festival, went to main temple, came back here, and went to bed. Then we woke up—” he motions to his new female body “—like this.”
“You don’t think something happened at the temple, do you?”
“Maybe.” He shrugs and then turns to look at Korra. “What did you do at the temple?”
“Nothing!” Korra answers far too quickly. “What did you do?”
“Nothing . . .”
Korra frowns. “This isn’t permanent, right?”
“I don’t know!” Mako throws up his hands, his somewhat dainty umber-tanned hands. “I don’t have all the answers, Korra. I’m just as ignorant about this situation as you are!”
“You guys are going to have to talk about this with Tenzin when he gets back,” Bolin suggests, and everyone nods in agreement.
“Yeah, he should know what to do,” Korra says, scratching the stubble on her chin. Seriously? Facial hair? This sucks!
“Hey, Korra!” Mako calling her name in her voice is jarring to say the least. “Couldn’t you maybe ask Aang or the other Avatars what’s going on?”
“Hey, yeah!” Korra says in an excited voice that is all too foreign coming from Mako. “No, wait. I’m in your body; I don’t think I can do that.”
“You can’t go into the Avatar State?”
“I don’t even think I can even bend—”
Korra lifts her hand and suddenly a ball of fire erupts from her palm.
“Hey, you can bend fire!” Bolin shouts excitedly.
Grinning to herself, as though plotting something evil, Korra snuffs out the flame and starts to create a small cyclone of air in her palms that she quickly uses to open the window next to Bolin’s bed. She then gets into a low stance and bends the earth outside the window, causing columns to form and then sink back into the ground. She even gathers moisture from the air, bending it into water to fill the empty glass beside the door.
“Whoa!” Bolin pumps his fist in the air. “That’s awesome, Korra! You can bend all four elements in Mako’s body!”
“I know! This so cool! But how?”
Mako shrugs. “You are the reincarnation of the Avatar spirit. Your body isn’t the Avatar, your spirit is.”
“Then what about you?” Korra asks. “You should still be able to Firebend in my body, right?”
Mako opens his palm and tries to light a flame. Nothing. He tries again. Nada. Frowning, he lets his hand fall limply to his side.
“No, doesn’t look like it.”
“I’m sorry, Bro,” Bolin says in a sad voice, walking over to place a large palm on his brother’s now slim and narrow Korra-like shoulders.
“Agni! This is so frustrating!” Mako shouts, pushing past Bolin. He pounds his fist on the table, knocking off the glass of water and spilling it onto the floor. “I just wanna—”
Mako stops short, his mouth opening and closing in shock. The spilt water is no longer on the ground but hovering in the air in front of his hands.
“Whoa!” Bolin cries, taking a step back to watch the scene.
“Korra!” Mako turns to look at her. “Did you do that?”
Korra shakes her head. “No, it’s you—you can Waterbend!”
“How?” Bolin asks.
“I have no idea—” Mako shakes his head, a grin settling on his (or rather Korra’s) lips “—but it’s kinda cool.”
He begins to plays with the water, feeling the instinct to instruct the liquid to do his bidding. Korra’s body is built for all bending, but water especially; thus the movements become natural to him.
“Check it out!” Korra cries, lighting a ball of blue fire in her palm. “My Firebending feels stronger than usual. Maybe the body is still important when it comes to bending, not just the spirit.”
“That’s right.” Mako nods. “If the Avatar spirit wasn’t reincarnated in your body you still would have been a Waterbender thanks to your genetic predisposition.”
“My genetic pre—my what?” Korra shakes her head, suddenly uninterested. “Never mind. Let’s see how strong this body of yours is.”
Korra immediately begins testing her strength, easily picking up the dumbbells in the corner, the beds, the wardrobes, the tables, even Bolin. In fact, Korra summarily launches the Earthbender out the open window before leaping outside to catch him and throw him back inside.
“Whoa!” Korra hops back in through the window, slightly out of breath. She looks down at herself, at the new body she has acquired, in amazement. “Mako, you’re are like crazy strong!”
“Korra!” Mako snaps, suddenly splashing her in the face with water. “Stop destroying things in my body!”
“Why?” Korra wipes her face, an unnatural grin settling on her (Mako’s) lips. “I am going to have so much fun with this body!”
“We need to talk to Tenzin first,” Mako counters, placing his hands on his now curvy hips. “You need to talk to your former selves. We have to fix this!”
“Yeah, yeah.” Korra waves her hand dismissively before running to the window and jumping outside. “Later, dudes! I’m going to go pick a fight in a bar!”
“But she already does that kinda stuff as a girl,” Bolin mutters quietly to himself.
“KORRA!” Mako runs to the window, watching the Avatar sprint off towards the shore in his body. “Korra, get back here!”
He is about to climb outside and chase after her when Bolin’s hand is on his arm.
“Let her have some fun,” he says, quickly letting go of his brother’s arm and stepping back. “Besides, you can have some fun of your own.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Mako lets out a sigh before turning around and looking down at his (Korra’s) hands. He gathers the water from the floor and bends it outside onto the grass. “This would be the perfect opportunity to study Waterbending.”
“Waterbending?” Bolin snorts derisively. “Bro! You have boobs to play with now! BOOBS!”
Wide-eyed, Mako glances down at his chest before blushing profusely and covering them with his arms. Is this what it meant to be a girl? Nuts to that!
“Shut up, Bolin!”
Chapter 19: Crossover
(n) a place at which or the means by which a crossing is made; (adj) a combining of two distinct styles; the placement of two or more otherwise discrete fictional characters, settings, or universes into the context of a single story.
She’s gasping for air beside him; her lungs are burning, but she fights through the pain. He is heavy in her arms, even with the water carrying more than half the weight. Finally, she drags him up on shore before her knees buckle and she falls to the sand. Her hands are already on his chest.
The compressions come in short, staccato bursts before she lifts his chin up and moves to his mouth. Quick, deep exhales. She draws in more air before returning to his mouth, trying to breathe life into a body that is broken. Her palms slide back down to his sternum, pumping away like a heartbeat hell-bent bent on destruction. She hears a crack—a rib, maybe—but keeps on pushing.
“Breathe, dammit! BREATHE!”
But he isn’t breathing; he isn’t moving. Wet tracks of tears stream down her face; droplets of saline fall from her chin and splash onto his neck, his smooth, elegant neck. She follows the flow of muscle connecting the hinge of his jaw to his collarbone with her fingertips, tracing the gentle dip beneath his throat. Will she remember the fall of lines and shadows when he’s gone?
Her hands are back on his chest, pumping, beating, cracking, pushing life back into him. She won’t give up. She will never give up. It’s still possible, she thinks, that this is all just a nightmare and she’ll wake at any moment.
But it isn’t a nightmare.
She won’t wake up.
Her hands finally give out and she collapses on top of his body, shakily inhaling and exhaling sobs.
“Please don’t leave me,” she whispers, her voice muffled against his flesh.
His heart has stopped beating—she doesn’t know exactly when—but he’s still warm to the touch, and that only makes her cry harder.
“Mako? Mako, come back to me,” she whispers hoarsely before sitting up, beating at his bruised chest with both hands. “You liar!” Spittle flies from her mouth as she screams, tears blurring her vision. “You said you’d never leave me! You said—”
Her eyes travel to his face, lifeless eyes staring back at her, and her breath hitches in her throat.
“I’m sorry.” Her fists immediately unclench, smoothing along his chest up to his collarbone before she lays kiss after kiss upon his throat. “I’m so sorry, Mako. Please forgive me.”
Tired, she rests her head on his shoulder, kissing the curve of his jaw as she tries to mould her body to his. She begins to wonder why she’s still here, why the spirits haven’t taken her with him. She isn’t really sure what anchors her to this world anymore. It certainly isn’t duty. She doesn’t know what she’s feeling anymore—and if she doesn’t know what she’s feeling, is it possible she isn’t feeling anything at all?
Suddenly the world begins to spin around her. Her thoughts drift like sand running through fingers, lost in time. She closes her eyes for just a moment, and when she opens them he is there.
He’s standing above her now. Reaching out, he takes her by the hand and lifts her to her feet. The beach is somehow different than she remembered. Nothing stretches out until infinity before them. Nothing. Blank canvases of sea and sky and an endless white shore are what await them. It is infinite potential—and in the creases of her mind where she doesn’t dare elaborate, she staggers beneath the possibilities of what they might create here. Together.
“Are you real?” she suddenly asks, feeling her hand in his. “Am I real?”
He has that half-smile of his on his face—the one that makes her stomach do somersaults when it reaches his eyes. Slowly, he bends down, kissing the top of her head.
“Yes, and yes.”
She smiles in return, reaching up to smooth her hand over his cheek. He is real, he is real, he is real, but—
“But you died . . .”
Her caresses her lips with his thumb before sliding it up along her jaw towards her ear; his fingers are taut and firm at the back of her neck. His hand is warm and smooth; everything she remembers, everything she craves. His skin, his touch, his warmth. Everything.
“So did you.”
Written why listening to Adagio in D Minor. Yes, I didn’t go with the customary fandom crossover but the idea of someone crossing over. I was going to go REALLY sad with this but decided not to and left it rather ambiguous (and on the optimistic side). You’re all lucky I was in a non-angst mood! :P
Chapter 20: Damage
(n) physical harm caused to something in such a way as to impair its value, usefulness, or normal function; (v) to cause physical harm to something in such a way to impair its value, usefulness, or normal function.
He must be dreaming; this is just far too bizarre to be reality.
Korra is cooking for him!
Mako never thought the day would come. He would even laugh at the scenario if he wasn’t so sure it’d make him cough up his insides. So he holds in it in as best he can but ends up coughing anyway from the strain.
“Stop dying over there!” Korra calls from their tiny kitchen. “I’m doing this for your health, not mine.”
She sounds so disgruntled and looks so out of place that this time Mako has to laugh; he simply cannot help himself, sick or not. Korra was just not designed to be the caring, housewife type.
“I never pegged you for the domestic type, Korra,” Mako croaks; his chuckles turning into phlegmy coughs. “This is new and exciting information to me."
He turns his head to offer her a weak smile. Korra doesn’t even need to turn around for Mako to know that she’s rolling her eyes at him, gnashing her teeth in frustration. Then there’s a deafening clanging sound and a crash, and Mako thinks Korra must have broken something from the colourful expletives she rhymes off under her breath. Of course he’ll be made to clean the mess when he gets well, but he doesn’t mind; waking up to extra blankets and Korra cooking for him is more than worth the eventual clean-up.
“You act like it’s a wonder I know how to use a stove,” Korra mutters, sucking in her finger with a hiss as she places the steaming bowl of soup down on the side table next to him.
She sits beside him and his badger den of blankets on the couch, tucking the ends around his bare feet. The soup smells fantastic, but the thought of food right now just makes him want to retch.
“I don’t know,” he coughs again, and forces a spoonful of soup down into his protesting stomach. “It’s just that you’ve always lived with people taking care of you; whereas I’m used to being the mother and housekeeper.”
It’s true that when he first met Korra he thought she was somewhat spoilt and sheltered, in the fact that she had family and he didn’t. It was more envy than anything. But seeing her cook for him and take care of him put him at a loss for words; it’s a side of Korra he’s never seen before and it makes him swell with pride that she’s allowed herself to try new things to help him.
He sets down his bowl and leans over, lightly kissing her on the forehead. It’s an intimate gesture, far too intimate for a sick man to be doing, and Korra draws back in shock.
“What was that for?” she asks, touching her blushing cheeks.
“For being you,” he answers simply with a smile.
She laughs, a twinkling sound, and pulls him down onto her lap. Resting his head on top her thighs, he closes his eyes and hums in contentment as she brushes his hair with her fingertips. It’s a soothing gesture; it reminds him of his mother.
“I’m supposed to be taking care of you, remember?” she whispers, lovingly stroking his hair.
He sighs, a soft shiver travelling up his spine as her fingers begin to caress his neck. Yes, he could get used to Korra taking care of him. He might actually even enjoy getting sick.
Yeah, I couldn’t go with angst or something depressing after my last theme. So damage, in this case, is related to Mako being sick (and I guess you could count Korra breaking stuff in the kitchen too).
Chapter 21: Balance
(v) to keep or put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall; (n) a mental steadiness or emotional stability; habit of calm behaviour, judgement, etc; (n) a state of equilibrium or equipoise; equal distribution of weight, amount, etc.
The hours skip by without even an ounce of joy, at least on Mako’s part. In fact, he’s spent most of that time worrying about how much time they’ve wasted in this bizarre world of colourful plastics and pint-sized kids. Of course, it was entirely Korra’s idea to visit the playhouse. When the Avatar gets an idea, she always acts on it—always—which is why he has no idea where she is.
When he starts to think about it, there’s something mildly scary about his surroundings; play and funhouses have always made him feel incredibly apprehensive. He’s up to his elbows in primary colours, the bright ones that most frequently feature in madmen’s dream.
None of the other patrons seem to mind. Well, that is that the children don’t seem to mind; it’s the parents who have issues with his presence. He can’t blame them. It’s a faintly discomforting thought that five metres from their children is a grown man on his knees, frantically pawing his way through a ball pit.
“Korra, this isn’t funny!” he grumbles, tossing aside another handful of reds, yellows, and blues.
Somewhere buried in the ball-pit is Korra, waiting to pounce. He’s not even sure how she can breathe underneath the avalanche of plastic, and what’s worse is that he has to collect Korra before Tenzin notices that they’re three hours late for the taskforce he assigned them to lead.
Mako then hears the high-pitched peal of laughter—specifically Korra’s high-pitched peal of laughter—and shoots his hand out towards the sound of her voice. Something sharp pinches his hand and he flinches. There’s another peal of laughter, and he glances down to see two nail marks embedded in his palm. A pair of large blue eyes peer up at him through the plastic, considerably unnerving him, and suddenly Korra bursts through the coloured plastic balls, sending him off balance.
“Dammit, Korra!” he growls, trying to stand upright before falling back down on his arse. “You’re in serious trouble!”
Korra’s giggles only seem to intensify in response to his empty threat. “But it looked like you were having so much fun with all the little kiddies.”
Groaning, Mako finally lifts himself to his feet and steadies his hands against the wall. The mothers are starting to become angry and indignant, and he doesn’t feel like dealing with a herd of them—especially since he knows Korra will abandon him to their clutches. Sometimes he wonders if she skipped out on the whole growing up-process. It’s like she’s the child and he’s the adult—they’re total opposites.
Eventually they are shepherded away from the children by the advancing security guards, and Korra only laughs louder as they are basically thrown out. Once outside, Mako leans against the building, trying to catch his breath and his sanity. Korra’s beside him, still giggling to herself before lifting herself onto her tiptoes to deliver a soft kiss on the hinge of his jaw.
Blushing slightly, Mako touches his jaw and smiles. He thinks to himself that maybe their differences aren’t so bad; what’s important is that they balance each other out.
Chapter 22: Ever After
Love at first sight.
It’s a time-tested cliché of the highest calibre, but Ikki worships the ideal like it’s some sort of fanatical religion. In fact, she’s got it so bad it might as well be labelled a disease, like Ikki-itis or something to that effect. And while she knows that it certainly isn’t contagious, she figures it ought to be. In Ikki’s mind, love would fix a lot of the ills of the world, along with rainbows and sunsets and spoonfuls of clouds (and she still doesn’t get how the volcano option made more sense to Korra).
Inevitably, Ikki believes it falls to her to make a cure for this disease—the love at first sight cliché—and she makes it her mission to get Mako and Korra together. No matter what. She tries several things to accomplish this, including an ill-fated attempt to brew some very awful-smelling love potions and even the unfortunate incident in which she informed Mako’s current girlfriend, Asami, of Korra’s crush. Alas, none of these tactics work. Ikki even considers kidnapping as an option: throwing the two “destined” lovebirds together in a small room and locking the door. But the are several problems with this option: one, she has an early curfew (stupid father); two, Korra’s been watching her like a hawk ever since the Asami incident.
It’s one early morning when Ikki’s about to scheme her next plan when she spies Korra and Mako sitting down to tea together. It’s a simple act, void of romanticism and fairy-tale sparkles, but it’s warm and intimate—far too intimate for a young girl like her to truly understand. But what she does know is that Mako and Korra live their lives full of adventure and danger. Rarely is there a day where they don’t confront the very real possibility of injury or death, so it makes the peaceful times all the more precious. It’s times like these when Ikki sees Mako and Korra with their guards truly down.
Watching from the doorway, Ikki begins to wonder if small, intimate gestures like sharing tea together are truly better than living on a castle in the sky. Love, no matter how lofty the ideal, isn’t simply a cliché to be read in stories. It’s something she sees everyday: it’s the way her parents look at each other or the way Mako touches Korra’s hand. If you ask Ikki, she’d be frank enough to admit that love can be rather boring to watch sometimes, but it can also be exciting; it’s the lure of romance.
Maybe love isn’t made of sunsets and rainbows and maybe love at first sight doesn’t always pave the way to a fairy-tale ending. Maybe true love needs time and experience (or even tea) to grow and develop. And then what? To be honest, Ikki doesn’t know, but the one thing she is certain of, the one part of the fantasy that she will forever hold onto, is the happily ever after. Because what other kind of ending can there be?
These seven Makorra Week pieces weren’t my best, but I’d like to think that each one was written in my typical “going against the grain” fashion. You never quite know what to expect from me, and though that’s a hit or miss tactic, I still I hope you enjoyed them. (ღ˘⌣˘ღ)
Chapter 23: White Day
Bolin loves White Day.
It is the one day out of the year that he gets chocolates—lots and lots of chocolates—from girls. Not just from a few girls, but every girl he knows. And every year he manages to get candy from each and every girl, without fail, and today he has a mountain of presents sitting before him. Only one giftee’s chocolate is missing . . .
He wouldn’t have minded really, but he has a record to uphold. So far Bolin has been able to track down gifts from Korra (she looked at him funny and suggested he buy her chocolates instead, but ultimately broke down when Bolin turned on the charm, i.e. pouted to the point of crying), Jinora and Ikki (hey, kids count too! alas, their married mother does not), Lin (she was throwing out candy when he happened to be nearby, but that counts!) and countless Pro-bending groupies. He doesn’t even need to coerce anyone or bring out Pabu as his wingman (wingferret?).
Bolin manages to get chocolates from almost everyone he wants (again, Pema doesn’t count cause she is married to Tenzin and he doesn’t seem like the type who is down with letting his wife give presents to other men). But there is still one girl who is holding out on him, hasn’t even contacted him all day, and it is a matter of principal that Bolin receives his last gift from her. How else can he claim himself to be the ultimate ladies’ man when he is one lady short? (This excludes all unwilling married women, of course.)
Asami Sato, his elusive gift-giver-to-be, is a tricky creature. She has always seemed affable enough, never treated him unkindly. She used to date his brother and then his brother broke her heart, but that isn’t Bolin’s fault. She doesn’t lump him in with Mako, does she? Naw, probably not. Maybe she is just waiting for the right moment to give him his chocolates—when Mako isn’t around.
Of course Bolin isn’t expecting Asami to just swoop down in the city streets on one of those cool plane thingies her dad invented, pull a box of chocolate out of her utility belt or whatever she wore, and hand them to him. That’d be too easy (although it would be TOTALLY awesome and he wouldn’t complain if she went that route). But Bolin is expecting something and soon, and if Asami isn’t going to come to him (super cool plane with equally awesome utility belt not withstanding), Bolin will have to go to her.
It is chocolate-gift-hunting time!
But how does a Pro-bending Earthbender get a hold of the Satomobile and Technologies heiress? He has tried calling her home, but no one picked up. He even tried calling her company, but they said she was too busy. How can she be too busy for the Bo-Man on White Day? Chocolates needed to be doled out!
Bolin would have to think outside the box for this one; he’d have to be crafty. He is dealing with a woman who owns her own automobile and high-tech gadgets company (or companies; whatever). Clearly he can’t just barge into her office without an appointment or sneak past her wall of security. He could call her again, but that would just sound like he is begging for chocolates, and Bolin does not beg women for gifts on White Day. No sir.
What he needs is a net. Some sort of net that resists massive amounts of electricity that shot from that damn Equalist glove she never takes off. Something like a butterfly net but stronger, and bigger. Then he’d scoop her into it and—oh, wait, she is a race car driver. She can just take off on him. Then he’d have to chase her. He’d have to use his bending but not in a way that would cause damage to public and or city property. He already got read the riot act like fifty times by Lin Bei Fong for his road shenanigans with Korra and Asami. It’s like Lin thinks he can’t read or something. So no property damage. Scratch that. But Bolin will get his chocolates from Asami . . . somehow.
So—no nets, no tearing up the city streets. That only leaves breaking into her house or one of her company buildings. But how is he supposed to do that? He could tunnel underneath her house. Mr Sato still has that hidden work area, but Lin Bei Fong and her men filled it in. Still, Bolin could easily cut a path. It might take some work (a lot of work), but it’s all worth it in his eternal quest for chocolatey goodness from hot ladies.
But what if Asami isn’t home? He can’t break into her office building, not with the hassle of security and the inevitable property damage he would likely incur—not to mention the fact that Mako would personally kick his arse from there to the Fire Nation if he got charged with anything. Maybe he could wait outside her house or her office and just sort of pounce on her when she came out. No, wait, that isn’t a good idea. He remembers her being exceptionally fast and well-versed in self-defence (plus that damn glove-thingy), and then there are the many bodyguards. He’s likely get charged with stalking or assault (even though he’d probably be the one with his arse handed to him), and he doesn’t need Lin reading him the riot act again. He is so sick of that act; she needs a new one.
Okay, so maybe it isn’t a good idea for him to go through all this effort just to get some candy from Asami Sato. In fact when he really thinks about the lengths to which he is willing to go to, he is almost motivated enough to go out and buy his own damn chocolate and put Asami’s name on it.
So much for the record this year . . .
The next day Bolin wakes up to find a package at his door with a note written in the most elegant handwriting he’s ever seen placed on top:
Sorry these got to you so late. I was out of the city the entire week and didn’t get back until just now. I knew you were sleeping, so I didn’t want to wake you. Anyway, enjoy the chocolates and I hope you had a great White Day, sweetie! Talk to you soon.
Bolin allows a slightly idiotic grin to creep onto his features. Then, in the true spirit of the moment, he picks up the phone and dials Asami’s number.
“Bolin? Hi! Did you get your chocolates?”
“Sorry they were late.”
“It’s no problem. Next year you can make up for it by buying me two boxes—and dinner!”
It is a sweet sound, almost as sweet as chocolate.
Yes, White Day in Japan and Korea takes place a month after Valentine’s Day and signifies men giving gifts to women, but I’ve decided that our Valentine’s Day is the LoK version of White Day and it’s named so because white signifies purity. Also, I’m leaning more towards the Taiwanese tradition where women give gifts to men on this day. And apparently Bolin is obsessed with receiving gifts. ;)