The first time it happens - well really the second time, but she tries her hardest to forget the mortification of the first - it's her fault. You don't think before you act. Tenzin's words ring soundly in her ears. You should be more patient. Let the wind come after you, don't chase it.
Mako's lips are as warm as she expects them to be and his fists clench at his sides. To keep him from doing something stupid. Anchoring him down. Mako's not like her. He thinks. Weighs his options. Communicates in sidelong glances and carefully calculated words.
It's over as soon as it starts. His hands are gripping her shoulders, holding her at arms length. Their eyes meet briefly before he looks to the ground. His breathing is labored and heavy; he's still holding her, his fingers staring to press into the bone of her shoulder blade. She reaches for him; it's against the rules, she knows. Korra's always been a rule breaker.
Then he's gone, like the wind. It takes every single ounce of control that she's surprised she even possesses not to chase it. Don't chase the wind, Korra.
Tenzin would be proud.
He's always watching her.
So she takes up training on the far side of the island. Past the sky bison stables, down the jagged path - Tenzin should put some more steps here - to the place where her feet touch sand and cresting waves tickle her toes. Korra runs to see if he'll chase her. He does. She hides her smirk of undeserved accomplishment under her shirt when she pulls it up from the sides.
"Korra what are you -." Mako stops, his stare is calculating again (because when does he ever not think about what he does?). His adam's apples bobs slightly. "We should talk about what happened?"
"Which time?" Korra turns, her hair curls slightly at the ends, hitting her neck at an awkward angle.
Korra slides off her pants, feels the rugged callouses embedded into her palms when she pushes them down her thighs. I bet she doesn't have callouses. Mako likes it rough. She knows because he's told her so, several times actually. The last was this morning when she cornered him after his shower.
She presses her tongue to the roof of her mouth, clicking a little. "You can join me you know."
Mako crosses his arms and raises an eyebrow. She wishes he wouldn't be so uptight. Not only because she wants to see him with his shirt off. She likes to think she's not that superficial. "You go ahead and have your fun."
"Suit yourself, kill joy." Korra bends a water whip in his direction, a sharp swish and flick of her wrist. He sidesteps, a graceful twist of his ankles, without blinking, that damming smug self satisfied smirk tugging at his lips. Cocky bastard.
Korra turns back to the water, finding small things to concern herself with other than the way her stomach flutters when he half-smiles and his eyes soften. She dreads to think what would happen if he actually grins. She has a theory that her world will collapse. So she hopes he doesn't; Korra senses she's not too far from breaking down completely.
The sun sets into the horizon with a blaze of brilliant whites, oranges and reds - like the blood that's thick and heavy flowing through her nighttime consciousness. Korra turns over her palm, eyes tracing the small blue veins running up her arm, an intricate spider web of nerves that she's supposed to know but doesn't because they don't speak to her like they should. They don't light up and tell her the secrets of the universe. Lately, she's become more familiar with the metallic taste of blood than she'd like to admit.
The water sighs under her weight as she wades in deeper. Water is the source of life. Water is home. Water was her. When the village children still let her folic around in circles chasing them without care; not sizing her up with jealous glares that didn't suit the faces of childlike innocence. Before they locked her in the compound; which was nothing more than a glorified cage. She was the prized bird to poke and prod at. I'm the Avatar. Everyone loves me. They have to. They love her because that's the order of things; that's how it goes. She loves her title. She loves her parents by obligation; even though she doesn't know them.
Who would love her? Really love her. She's supposed to be the most loved being in the universe. How dare you defy your Avatar? So why does it feel so hallow and why is she so lonely?
The burning starts in her throat and there's a pressure ripping through her stomach. She opens her mouth; bubbles fly out doing little to alleviate the inferno in her lungs. Maybe it would all disappear. She wouldn't need to break her promises to the city; she can't save it if she can't even save her own fragile sanity. She wouldn't need to see Tenzin's disappointed downcast eyes that he stops hiding from her each and every time she doesn't airbend; looking less and less like his father everyday. Korra curls her legs into herself hooking her fingers together at the knees.
Maybe he would save her. But she doesn't need saving. She could - she could let him protect her like he wants. Her hair fans out around her. She struggles to open her eyes against pain and sea salt and water current. Nothing but everblue. She closes her lids and slips back into the comforting blackness of nothingness.
Korra stares - mostly because she doesn't have it in her to look away, does she? - Mako doesn't look away either.
It's not kissing, not really. They're fighting because that's what they know. Korra fights him with her fire; striking the first match and throwing it into that line of gasoline prepped for the explosion. Mako answers, a blaze all his own fanning the flames; he's not cautious with her. He doesn't treat her like the bird whose wings have been clipped. What if he had come to her sooner? Opened the cage and watched on when she took flight. Always watching. Katara told her, those were perfect qualities to look for in her companion. Always waiting and watching. Her master perfected the art years ago but Korra thinks that even Katara would be impressed with Mako's skill.
She's burning up because his fingers are on fire; but she doesn't stop him because she likes it. They press into her neck - following the path his lips carved out - and tug fiercely in her hair. There are times she likens herself to a neglectful mother playing favorites. Tapping the heads of her three children, the fourth is always missing, taking one up in her arms; singing sweet lullabies in it's ear. Fire has always been her favorite child.
Mako's tongue slips into her mouth. His fingers are harsh in her hair. Korra sighs into his mouth, palming at his shoulder awkwardly; trying to regain her grip on reality and failing miserably.
This isn't fair, Korra thinks suddenly. You don't get to make all the rules. But she doesn't care, because she wants him. So much that her throat is dry and she can barely breath. It's an addiction, she's just checking in for her next hit.
"I feel guilty. Don't you feel it?" he says, they're laying side by side in the sand trying to catch their breath as waves wash over their feet in soft white succession.
"Guilty." Mako tips his head towards her slightly so she can she the purple teeth shaped welt where she marked him. She won't heal it; Korra hopes he doesn't ask her to.
No. "Yes." She lies so well she's almost starting to convince herself. She turns into him fully now; staring into brilliant red - blood red - fabric, her fingers dancing along the frayed edges; pressing her nose in it softly.
"I should stop." he continues above her, placing a hand at the small of her back and curling his fingers under her ear.
But you won't. "Yeah. Maybe you should."
"This isn't fair." Korra can almost feel the judgement in his eyes when she hunches over to catch her breath. Airbending tires her out - she's not even doing anything really. It's the frustration and disappointment that defeats her every time. "Asami is our friend." No. She's your friend. Korra shakes the thought out of her head. She needs to focus on things like being the leaf and dancing on the wind. Not friends she keeps at arms length because Korra doesn't know how to deal with concepts that come naturally to her, much less the shameful reality of sickening guilt. She sees it in Mako's eyes enough as it is.
"I don't know what you're talking about, Bolin." The look on his face isn't one she's seen before. She reminds herself that Mako wasn't the only student of Hard Knocks.
"You're lying." Korra lets out a huff as she sits on the ground, pulling her ankles in, small pebbles lodging themselves into the lines of her pelt.
Korra runs her hand along the line of her ponytail. "I really don't kn-."
"Bullshit." Bolin spits out, pointing his index finger at her accusingly.
"There are few things I hate in life. Lying is at the top of that list." Bolin moves his hands around in juxtaposition to his speech. "Mako - as bad as this sounds because I love my brother. But, Mako I expect this from. Not you, Korra. You're better than this."
That's what you think. She doesn't say it.
Asami is wonderful even in the way she sheds her tears. Korra always has to strain to hear her choked sobs and never sees the shaking shoulders. The only way Korra can ever really tell that Asami actually cries at night resides in the small wet patch of her pillow present only at the day's sunrise. Korra envies her strength. Then again, there are many things that Korra envies about Asami Sato.
Sometimes, Mako comes at night when Asami bawls. Whispering to her softly, stroking her hair; promising her security and all the love in the world. Korra cries too. But she turns away and hides it.
I'm the Avatar. Everyone loves me. It's a reassuring mantra the she's stopped believing the second she stepped foot into Republic City, or at least that's when she admitted it to herself.