Korra had always known that she liked girls.
When she was a little tyke and all her friends were writing love notes to the boys, she was rough housing with the older girls and enjoying it way too much.
During her adolescence, she barely thought about relationships mainly because she was too busy training to be the Avatar, but also because everyone tried to hook her up with all these guys that she didn’t think were attractive. She would visibly flinch when her parents assumed that she would marry a nice young man one day.
Out of defiance, she never went on a date with anyone until she moved to Republic City.
The shift in setting made her mind speed up and her heart flutter — Korra was in love with the racing cars, the smoggy air, the chatter of the busy streets, and the exhilaration of pro bending. She was in a constant state of infatuation, so it was no surprise that when Korra laid her eyes on Mako’s pretty face, her heart was stuck in her throat.
“I’ve never felt this way about someone before,” she said honestly to the clear skies of Air Temple Island. How was she to tell him? She could barely breath let alone speak when she looked at him, so how was she supposed to confess her love for him? Was this love anyway? She assumed so. What else would it be?
But, when Korra mustered up the courage to tell him, a beautiful woman had already swept Mako off his feet.
Korra looked at Asami and Mako arm in arm and felt two conflicting emotions: jealousy and desire. The worst part was she couldn’t tell which person the respective emotions were directed toward.
And then Bolin started showing interest in her, and she just didn’t know what to think or what to say. She had never been attracted to Bolin at all, and their dates felt more like hanging out than anything she would consider romantic. Even though the Bolin situation was a classic example of how her love life usually played out, Korra decided that this was just a normal reaction. She was in love with Mako after all, and it proved two things: one, her attraction to Bolin (or lack thereof) was because her heart belonged to Mako, and two, she couldn’t be that gay if she was in love with a man.
Because Korra could not be gay.
She just simply could never marry a woman because, as the Avatar, she had to set an example for the young people of the world, and no one wanted to see two women holding hands let alone dating or, Spirits forbid, get married. During her youth, she had spent most nights with her pillow clutched to her chest crying because she was different, and her difference was morally wrong. On the other hand, she also hated the idea of spending the rest of her life with someone she wasn’t attracted to. The obvious decision was that she would never get married or have children, but Mako was the end to those thoughts.
After that one fateful pro bending match, Korra reached out and grabbed Mako’s face, planting her lips on his.
Even though he began to kiss back, Korra felt a bit disappointed that there were no fireworks like people had told her there would be.
Fortunately, she didn’t have long to dwell on that fact because Bolin had seen them and started to wail.
But, even when they actually were together, and Asami was out of the picture, Korra still felt strange and uneasy around Mako. It wasn’t like she didn’t like being in his arms or having his lips press lovingly against her forehead, but it just didn’t feel right.
Dating was not all it was cracked up to be. Six months into their relationship and most interactions began to devolve into fights. The most frustrating part was they would fight over stupid things, over misinterpreted glances, over not reading each others mind, over Avatar stuff, over anything, really.
There was also barely any real intimacy. Sure, they hugged and kissed, but at seventeen, she knew that the expectation of something more would arise soon enough. When they would cuddle under the moon and starlight, Korra pretended like she wasn’t nervous about getting asked to have sex with him. Not that he wasn’t unbelievably gorgeous (especially with his shirt off), but it was more like an appreciation than an attraction. He was a sculpture standing before the city, not an object of lust and affection. It was only a matter of time before he asked if she was ready, and she’d either have to say, “no,” or lie and have her first time be without the passion she had always imagined there would be.
Korra wondered how long she could go through the motions. Was this how love worked? Was it all fun and games until you were actually committed to each other, and then everything would just go to shit? Is this why marriages didn’t last and resentment stirred in families? How did anyone stay together if this is all there was to look forward to?
One night Korra overheard Mako talking to Bolin when they thought she was asleep.
“I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.”
“Wait, with you and Korra?”
“Yeah, I don’t know. We were so great at first and now…” he paused to sigh, “I just don’t think there’s anything there. She never wants to do anything anymore.”
“Hmm, maybe you guys need to spice things up a bit.”
Korra tensed, knowing exactly what Bolin meant by that.
“I don’t know, bro. It’s like there’s more chemistry between her and Asami than her and me.”
Those words were the beginning of the end. Everyday after that night when she got up and looked into Mako’s eyes, her mind assured her that she was a big dyke that didn’t deserve his time and energy. She would wish him good morning and run off to practice air bending, or survey the city, or some other preplanned excuse.
Not only was their relationship in the crapper, but Unalaq was making her life a living hell as well. She didn’t have the patience to deal with both. So when Korra found out Mako snitched on their plan to recruit Iroh, she snapped.
“I can’t believe you would go behind my back and betray me like that!” she shouted, finger shoved at his chest accusingly.
Mako’s face was contorted with anger, some of it from the current altercation and the rest from previous ones. “I was asked a direct question! What do you want me to do? Lie?”
“Um, yeah! Aren’t guys supposed to stick up for their girlfriends or whatever?” The words still felt sticky on her teeth no matter how many times she said them.
“I think I saw more of you when we weren’t dating, to be honest.”
Korra’s cheeks burned as embarrassment shot through her stomach. She worried that the whole room could tell how much of a big fat lesbian she was. Why else wouldn’t she be glued to the hip of such a hot guy?
She frowned hard and whispered, “How could you say that?”
If the room had felt anything other than sympathy towards the Avatar, it was gone when they saw her forlorn expression.
“I don’t even know who you are anymore! All we do is fight! I can’t do it anymore!”
“Are you breaking up with me?” Her voice was higher than she had heard it since she was a little girl.
“Yeah,” he murmured, “I guess I am.”
Even though she had never really been happy with him, red flashed in her vision, and before she could tell herself to count to ten (as Tenzin often shouted at her before she burnt down another part of the island), she kicked the table across the room and stormed out before anyone could get another word in.
Despite herself, she couldn’t stop crying. As much as their relationship caused her stress, the realization that she was alone rested on her like a boulder. There would be no one to hold her at night when the nightmares creeped up on her, no one to assure her that she was doing the right things, no one to give her advice regardless of how much she did or didn’t use it.
The emptiness she felt was very great until she lost her memories. Then she forgot that Mako and her ever fought. Even when her memories came back, the feeling of abandonment was not as bad. She had time to realize it was for the best.
“We both know that this…us…doesn’t work,” he whispered to Korra, hands fidgeting.
“Yeah, I know.” Korra wondered if his melancholy smile was a knowing one.
“I’ll always love you, Korra.”
“I love you too, Mako.”
And they kissed one last time.
Strangely, unlike before, she was not sad. In fact, her newfound freedom was kind of liberating. She could let her mind wander to the places she hadn’t let it wander when they were together. She felt guilty thinking of other people sexually because she should have been thinking about Mako that way, but she hadn’t been. In those few days after their breakup, Korra’s mind kept wandering back to the same place:
Mako’s words were permanently stuck in her head. ”More chemistry between me and Asami, huh?” she would say to Naga as she brushed her coat.
Korra had never really considered it before. Her and Asami. Korra and Asami. Their names sounded beautiful in juxtaposition, a poem in and of itself. When she would zone out during Tenzin’s lessons, she wondered what Asami was doing. Maybe she was thinking about her too. Maybe she was working in her factory. Maybe she was going to take a shower, her hands gracefully peeling off her clothes—
“Whoa!” Korra shouted, visibly jolting and scaring Tenzin and his children out of their meditative state.
“What’s wrong?” Tenzin asked worriedly. “Did you see something?”
She laughed and blushed, “No, no, sorry, I just fell asleep.”
Tenzin gave her a disapproving shake of the head before closing his eyes again.
And that was just when she was just thinking about Asami. When she was actually in the same proximity as Korra, it was a whole different matter.
They had began to take nightly walks on Air Temple Island after Vaatu’s defeat to keep each other’s stress level down. This had become Korra’s favorite time of day. When else could she admire Asami’s black hair cascading down her back as if she were waterbending it from the ocean? Her green eyes glimmered like the stars above their heads, and when she spoke, they shown even more brilliantly than Korra thought possible.
“I’m glad we’ve gotten closer, Korra,” Asami said with a 100 watt smile. “You’re pretty awesome.”
“Me?” Korra pointed at her own chest is mock-disbelief. “If that’s true then I guess we’re both pretty awesome, Ms. Sato.”
Asami laughed and punched Korra in the arm. She ran her hand over her skin, not because Asami had hurt her, but because she had goosebumps on that side of her body.
“I’m so glad you’re my girlfriend.”
Korra was glad it was dark out because then Asami couldn’t see the blush on her cheeks. She knew what she meant, but just hearing the “g-word” was enough to send butterfly wings beating against her stomach.
“Yeah. Me too.”
Later that night, Korra stood in front of the mirror and stared at herself in the eyes. Her teal orbs weren’t as brilliant as Asami’s green ones. She was short and stalky, not tall and thin like Asami. Even though she was taught and muscular, she wondered if this body could be attractive. Letting her hair down from it’s ponytail, it bounced against her jaw, making her look softer and less rough around the edges.
But, she was rough around the edges. That’s the reason her and Mako couldn’t make things work. Well, one of the reasons.