Dish duty with the Air Family is a messy affair of negotiations and diplomatic arrangements - it’s your turn to the dishes but I did it yesterday and Jinora’s just reading her book she’s not even doing anything I just want to read in peace Dad please quell my darling sister but Daaaaddy Ikki, you know the ru - hey Korra can do it hey Korra you can just use waterbending it’ll be quick KooOOOooorraaAAAaaa
After a surrendering, pleading look from Tenzin, Korra shrugs, and helps herself to Ikki’s last strawberry. The squeals of victory collapse into despair as Korra pops the strawberry into her mouth, winking at Mako. She might as well just use water-bending, just to get it over with, and then they might as well just go for a walk around the island, because the night is clear and the stars are sending cool feather touches down from the sky. And there are other things they might as well do, like hide stolen kisses and glances snatched from the air in the island’s more secluded spots, and other things…
“Thank you for dinner, Pema, it was delicious,” says Mako, unfolding himself and rising from the table as Pema smiles and waves his words out of the air with a tired hand, holding Rohan to her chest with the other. Korra gets up too as Ikki scrabbles out of her seat and grabs the end of Mako’s scarf, flapping it vigorously with both hands.
“Hey Mako, will you come play with us? Wanna catch fireflies? Are fireflies just bugs that firebend? Can you teach me how to fire bend and then maybe we can find a dragon – “
“Nope, I’m kidnapping him,” says Korra swiftly, and she swoops down, wraps her arms around his legs, and lifts him easily into a loose fireman’s carry over her shoulder. Mako turns pink and grins as he finds himself at eye level with Ikki, who hits him with the end of the scarf.
“Oh, I think I’ll take this too,” says Korra, taking a step back, and she reaches out to pinch Ikki’s nose between two knuckles. Ikki squeaks and claps her hands to her nose as Pema bursts into laughter. Korra wheels into the kitchen, Mako still loaded onto her shoulder, scarf trailing to the floor. The kitchen is quieter than the dining room, and they’re alone; through the window Republic City is brushed with soft light that sharpens into bright flecks as it hits the water.
“Here’s your stop,“ Korra says, and she deposits Mako onto the countertop next to the sink.
“I didn’t know the Avatar provided taxi services,” he says, his face flush with color from being upside down, and she turns her head away, grinning, moving her hand from it’s spot on his hip into the sink – “wait, here’s the tip.”
He slips a hand onto Korra’s cheek, turns her head and kisses a sticky smear of bright red strawberry juice right under her bottom lip. A hot shiver careens up her spine and up the back of her neck, and she moves to close the kiss, just catching the salty rough touch of his lips on hers before she remembers – oh, dishes. And she breaks away, unable to control her grin. They are both in deliriously good moods from dinner; moods that unraveled as they passed fleeting touches to each other under the table, caught up in the thrill of casual secrecy, and now Korra feels her mood braiding to Mako’s.
“Okay, let’s get this over with,” Korra says, splaying her hands like a musician over the sink piled high with dining rubble. She takes a deep breath, pauses – how best to wash as many as possible with water-bending, and without leaving a mess – and his hand flutters over hers, stopping the form before it starts.
“You don’t have to rush. I’ll help,” Mako says, sliding off the counter and turning the spout, flicking at the water until it runs hot. Korra takes the first bowl and soaps it with the sponge. She is acutely aware of him as he stands next to her - the way they brush together when he takes the bowl from her grasp and turns it over under the spout; the lean cut of his body under his clothes, the gleam of his gold eyes as he glances at her, his lips twitching into a smile. The gravity of her world tilts left towards him and her senses flow there all at once. Korra soaps a few more dishes, mindlessly; the view out the window flattening out of focus as she daydreams…
“Can you make a bubble?”
Mako nods at her hands, slick and foamy with soap.
“A bubble? Of course, I can make a bubble,” she says defensively, and ofcourse she has to prove it – Korra makes a fist and opens it slowly, blowing into the film of soap clinging between her pointer finger and thumb. The bubble wavers and inflates to the size of a grapefruit, and she pinches her thumb to her finger and turns her hand over, showing him the glossy, opalescent dome in her palm.
“Mm, you need bubble bending lessons,” he says, shaking his head sadly, and she pops the bubble in alarm.
“What? No I don’t,” Korra says, soaping her hands again and rubbing them together. It was a perfect bubble. And she’ll make another perfect bubble. And it will be the greatest bubble ever and then he’ll be sorry. She does it again, eying him under raised eyebrows as her second bubble expands under her loosely closed palm, jiggling under its own weight. His throat rumbles in mock disapproval and Mako reaches across to the soap dish, soaping his own hands.
“Fine, why don’t you show me whatcha got,” Korra smirks, popping the second bubble with a twitch of her fingers and leaning against the sink, arms crossed.
“You’re not ready for this,” he says, matching her tone, and he takes a breath, furrows his brows, puckers his lips and - makes a bubble. It billows under his palm to about the size of a lemon and he stops, holding it out to her. He probably could’ve made it larger, and her bubbles were both at least twice that size. She is unimpressed. That bubble needs to be poked into oblivion - then she’ll show him how it’s done, she is a master bubble bender and she is one with the Spirit of Bubbles – but with a quick motion from his wrist, Mako somehow slides the bubble off his hand and it floats, alone, in the air between them, drifting upwards until it vanishes with a petite pop.
“Told you,” he says, nudging her and grinning; he takes the last bowl and begins to scrub at it.
“The art of bubble bending,” Mako begins dramatically; she flicks water into his face. He squints the drops away and starts again: “the art of bubble bending is taught in the distant land of Narook’s Noodlery, where only the finest, hardiest dishwashing orphans are taught its ancient and noble forms…”
He sets the last dish aside and holds out his wet hands; she bends the water away.
“…At least until they quit, because Triad grunt work offers better cash,” says Mako dryly, and for a second there is a brief flicker of a memory grimier than those of the kitchen at the back of Narook’s. It passes and Korra tilts her head at him, her gaze sliding from his eyes to his feet and back again. She feels an odd pride swelling in her chest as she looks at him, shortening him by a few feet in her mind’s eye, adding roundness to his face, leaving the same infinite intensity shining through his marble eyes, and tucking the scarf away somewhere it won’t get wet –
“Did you wear an apron?” she asks, giggling. He nods and she laughs - her mental sketch of Mako at twelve years old is not complete without this detail.
“Mm, what’s so funny?” he hums, wrapping an arm around her waist and pulling her closer, so that they’re pressing together. His palm skids lightly against her cheek and stays there, fingertips on the curve of her ear so that she barely feels it and yet it has pushed out all of her other feelings…
“Oh, nothing,” she murmurs, and she feels silly because she can’t stop smiling, but she also feels warmth pooling between her hips and it gives off a haze that spreads under the skin of her face, and the damp drag of his lips burns the spot where he kisses her on the neck and then he sears the spot right under her ear and it hisses hot and wet.
And suddenly heat cracks all over Korra as he leans her over the counter and laces his fingers into her hair and tilts her face up to kiss her, his breath like smoke on her tongue, the numb humming of her lips slick against his, their mouths tight on each other and from her body he pulls fire and because it hurts she clings to him, holds him to her. She’s too dizzy behind her closed eyes to let go just yet.