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the avatar doesn’t come with an instruction manual

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"It's different."

Mako looks at Asami in surprise. He hadn’t intended to sneak up on her, but at the same time, he didn’t realize she knew he was approaching either. He quickly positions himself next to her, leaning against the fencing that encircles the deck. The blue glow emits from the lights strung all along the edge of the roof, contrasting Asami’s colour greatly.

"What is?" he asks.

She had been leaning against a post, but turns now so that she’s also resting her arms on the fence like he is. Unless Mako makes an effort, he can’t see her face. He doesn’t try.

"How you’re basically feeling the same thing, but your heart is working at a whole different level,” she pauses, “so it’s not the same thing."

Mako has been used to Bolin’s rambles his entire life, but this time even Asami’s words have him confused. He squints, replaying the words in his head; in the distance, he can see two other figures at the gates. "Huh?"

"It's like, when you have a unit—a machine—you can put the gears together however you want to, make it work how you want to. And you can have an assembly line of them and all of them are identical. But depending on who's working with them, they end up working differently... Did you feel the same when you were with me and then with Korra?"

"No. Well sorta. It was different. I mean, you two are completely different people. And I,” he closes his mouth, pressing his lips together as his brows knit together, rethinking her statement and why she would bring up his relationships with her and Korra. How is it related to Asami’s machines?

And then, “Oh…

Mako hadn’t really believed the others when they suggested there being something developing between Asami and Korra in the past year or so, but he supposes he’d been spending most of that time focusing on redeveloping his friendship and watching over Wu and fighting a war with them to notice.

In his peripheral, Asami smiles shyly, probably at the thought of the Avatar herself. "Yeah."

Mako remains silent, first lulling over the idea of Asami and Korra together. He would be fooling himself if he didn’t say they made each other happy. While he never noticed anything developing further, he knows for a fact that Korra and Asami had the sort of friendship that is irreplaceable, it seems. Even when he was in a relationship with both of them, he had no talent of pulling out the brightest smile from either girls like they can with each other.

He’s always thought Asami was beautiful, and Korra too, but he can’t help but think the way he looks at them, even when he was with them romantically, nothing could compare to how they stare at each other. How there can be a dozen or so others complimenting Asami, but a passing glance from Korra is enough to make the industrialist blush. An army behind Korra to support her in battle doesn’t equate Asami by her side.

Suddenly, the decor’s blue light that seemed to contrast Asami earlier looks so much warmer enveloping her, like it fits well along all of her lines. Mako smiles at the thought and then shakes his head for not seeing it sooner.

"So this machine of yours,” he starts, conjuring every one of Bolin’s metaphors in his head, hoping the memories will click enough in his mind for him to use one with Asami. “It's not working the way you're used to, huh?"

She nods carefully. "Yeah. Would you...Would you have a problem with that?"

Asami turns finally, facing Mako and staring him down. Not quite asking for permission, but almost asking for assurance—to know if her thought process is putting all the parts together properly. Mako suppresses a laugh; if only all this came with an instruction manual.

“It’s your heart, Asami,” he answers easily. “Nothing is ever wrong with that.”

She smiles again, before adjusting her neck. Mako follows along, looking over his shoulder, seeing the two figures again by the gate. Korra and Tenzin, he thinks.

"And do you think... Korra will have a problem with it?"

"You know I can't speak for her,” Mako replies immediately. He had a feeling Asami was going to ask him that. “But... I think you're a wonderful person, Asami. You know I do. And I think Korra's great too. I'd say go for it."

She casts a worried glance in his direction. "What if she doesn't..." Her voice trails off, and Mako thinks one day, when he finds someone and Korra insists on a double date with her and Asami, or maybe a triple date, knowing Bolin, they’ll laugh about how nervous Asami was. But then he realizes that nerves hadn’t been her thing when she and him started, so maybe this was all his fault, making her so unsure of herself.

He wants to let his head fall into the palm of his hands suddenly, but it’s not needed right now. Not when Asami needs him. Instead, he places both of his hands on Asami’s shoulders to turn her to him. He stares at her hard, showing her how sure he is, even if he’s not. Despite his confident exterior, his mind is running circles and his tongue wavers inside his mouth, not knowing what to say, but he goes onto encouraging her anyway.

"You've always been great at machines, Asami. So let's say Korra isn't... Isn't the pilot to your hummingbird. That doesn't mean she can't still hang out in the factory and—and have a good time. You two are great together no matter what. Friendship, relationship—whatever. You deserve to be happy. Both of you do. So I think you should go to her and...uh...do the thing?"

Asami is equal parts shocked and amused as her expression crinkles. She laughs enough to have to wipe a tear from her eye. "Yeah. Yeah. I should, shouldn’t I? I should go do the thing."

Mako sighs in relief. He knows Tenzin’s still with Korra, but he thinks that if Asami doesn’t do something soon, her nerves might come back. Pushing a curl behind Asami’s ear, he wipes the remaining tear away from her face. "Hey, why don't I go convince the others to check out Tenzin's glider suits. Those look like fun. I think Varrick will probably give it a go."

“What?”

She looks at him curiously, so he glances out to the island gates to direct her attention to the hypothetical pilot of her hummingbird.

“Oh. Oh.”

Mako knows that the next time they go on a double—triple—date with the others, he’ll have to tell Korra how red Asami got just now.

"I'll see you later, Asami,” he says, nudging her in the right direction.

In the distance, he hears her say:

 

"Thank you, Mako."