Mako sat on a balcony of the half-built pro-bending stadium, staring listlessly into the night.
Korra had called him a “cheating bastard” and airbent him out of the Air Temple before he could even try to defend himself, which he thought was a little much. Besides which, he wasn’t a cheat.
He just, well. He had a lot of misunderstandings.
The first time had been when Korra kissed him and Bolin saw and read it completely wrong. Well, Mako forced himself to admit with a sigh, not completely. He did like Korra. He hadn’t exactly minded the kiss; the Avatar tasted like sweet spices, with a lingering aftertaste that left his lips tingling like he’d almost burnt them. But Bolin’s face had forced him to admit that he couldn’t date her, not then.
The second time had been when Asami heard about the kiss. That... he ran a hand through his hair and determinedly did not look towards either the statue of Avatar Aang or the Air Temple. He couldn’t have explained it to her then! They were in the middle of a war! He had been planning on explaining to her that yes, he cared about Korra a lot, but that was completely different from his feelings for her, except then Korra got captured, and... Asami hadn’t taken it well that he was so anxious about Korra, to put it lightly. And then she’d been so damn cold towards him, shoving him towards Korra with her words and her tight, frozen, expressions.
The third time was when he told Asami that he and Korra had kissed again, and that he couldn’t refuse the Avatar. Asami had stood up and left without a word. He’d heard from Bolin that she didn’t tell anyone anything; just gathered up her belongings and requested transportation back to Republic City. As best his brother knew, General Iroh had offered to take her back and help her start rebuilding Sato Industries.
The fourth time had been after they finally went back to Republic City. He’d been walking around the city, buying supplies for dinner, when he’d been ambushed by what must have been a fangirl, by how she was throwing herself at him and babbling about how amazing he was. He couldn’t have done anything about her shoving her mouth at his, not without dropping all the groceries. Considering the glass jars some of the sauces and preserves were in, he couldn’t exactly do that, now, could he? So the newsprint had come out the next day, and someone had managed to get a picture of the fangirl assaulting him, and it was prominently displayed, with a very gossipy headline.
Korra hadn’t said anything about that one.
The fifth time, he was helping rebuild the pro-bending stadium, welding together massive metal supports metalbenders held in place. As they finished one section, a handsome young woman called him over to help carry boxes of nuts and screws over to the next work area. While they’d been carrying the boxes, her foot had landed on some loose screws and she’d lost her balance. The box went one way, and she the other. Mako had just thought it better to catch her than risk injury. So he’d done so – at the cost of his box also scattering pieces everywhere – and as he’d been making sure she was fine, some rumours started.
Korra had frowned at that.
The sixth time, that same young woman asked him to join the work crew for dinner. He’d agreed; he didn’t have other plans, and they often worked through dinner, so there wasn’t any issue with that, really. Except that then Korra had seen them as they left the restaurant, and dragged him away from their easy camaraderie back to the Air Temple.
That time she’d yelled at him, and he hadn’t been able to get a word in edgewise.
The seventh time... that would be why he was currently sitting in the pro-bending stadium.
He buried his head in his hands and wondered just how long it would take for Korra to calm down. He doubted that she’d be calm before dawn, but he didn’t know where he could stay without it getting him in even more trouble. At least it was summer, and the nights were warm, but...
Mako sighed, and curled against a wall, wrapping himself in his coat as completely as possible and trying not to think about all those things everyone called indiscretions and he would always swear were misunderstandings.
Bolin found him there in the middle of the night and brought him back to the Air Temple, where Tenzin, at least, was worried about him. He didn’t see Korra. Deep down, he doubted he would for quite a while.
* * *
The eighth time, Korra quite calmly told him that he was no longer any partner of hers, and Mako stood outside the Air Temple’s entrance for a long time before turning and incinerating whatever poor plant had happened to be growing too close with a curt “Fuck”.
Everyone looked at him with pity for quite a while after that.
Mako still watched Korra with lovestruck eyes, and a tight and bitter heart, but she never returned his affections. Nobody else seemed to think this odd – she did quite well on her own, and she was young, so she had plenty of time to get a partner if she wanted one.
Privately, Mako hoped she never would. He hoped that he would be her one, and only, love.
Of course, in time he was proven wrong, but that’s another story.