They burst into the attic apartment, soaked and panting.
When they entered the room, Mako gently let go of Korra's hand and walked to the near wall. She stretched her tingling fingers out.
"Electricity's out," he sighed, flipping the switch to the attic's lighting up and down to no avail.
"That was amazing!" Korra said, spinning around in the dark. Droplets of water flew off her fur-lined pelt as she whirled, spraying all over the brothers' room. Korra decided tonight that she loved rainstorms. She had never experienced anything like it before, and it thrilled her.
The two had spent the evening out in the city, aimlessly meandering through the streets. Korra had been wanting an official tour ('official' meaning the kind that showcased the coolest, hole-in-the-wall places) since she'd learned that the two brothers had lived in Republic City their entire lives. Bolin had organized the whole thing but then "mysteriously" had to meet up with some girl, leaving Mako to show Korra around all by himself. At first, Mako seemed disinterested in spending time with just her, but as the evening wore on, he opened up more and more, showing her the glimpses of himself that he had kept so hidden. This had surprised Korra. It had surprised her even more when a crack of thunder sounded above, and the skies opened up.
It had surprised her the most when Mako grabbed her hand as the two sprinted back to the arena to escape the storm. He didn't let go until they had entered the room. (He didn't let go.)
Mako flicked his hand out now, summoning a flame from his palm. "Amazing? We're both soaking wet. How is this amazing?" He walked over to his dresser and pulled out an old, lumpy candle. He set it on the dining table and lit it easily with a shot of fire.
When he extinguished the fire in his hand, Korra looked over at the candle's flame, flitting happily on the wick. It was the only light in the room, illuminating the side of Mako's face with its orange glow; his black hair, now slick from the rain, gleamed.
The storm pounded down on the roof.
"So," Mako said, sitting on the table next to the candle. He kicked off his boots and began swinging his feet. "Are you going to do anything about the two of us being drenched? Waterbend us dry, perhaps?"
She sat down on the floor and removed her boots. "I've never been rained on before, can't you let me enjoy the experience, city boy?"
"…Airbend?" he suggested.
She looked back up at him as she stood and couldn't help but laugh at his miserable expression (and he sure looked miserable). "You know, if I wasn't a bender, we'd just have to deal and enjoy this amazing rain."
"But we are benders."
She ignored him and padded over to the table, standing in front of the candle. She crossed her arms. "When I was a kid," she began, bending the light up and down, increasing and decreasing its size as she spoke. "I would go out and play with Naga in the snow. We'd run around outside for hours, and when I couldn't feel my fingers, I'd go back home just soaked. Wet and cold and snowy." Mako made a face. "So my mom would just strip all those wet clothes off, give me a big blanket, and plop me down in front of the fire." Korra untied her wet pelt and wrapped it around her shoulders, pretending to shiver. "… I loved that feeling." Her voice trailed off.
She remembered one of those nights particularly well. It was the night she had learned that she was a firebender. That she was the Avatar. The heat had felt different all of the sudden; it filled her to the brim, warming her everything. When the feeling reached her toes, she leaned back against Naga, inhaling deeply against her soft, damp fur. That's when the fire (and her life) changed.
Mako shook his head. "You and fire."
She dropped the pelt to the floor and smirked at him. The candle flickered. "What do you mean, 'me and fire'?"
He leaned back on his hands. "Well, you do seem to prefer firebending."
"Oh, do I?"
"Just an observation." Korra resumed playing with the fire, throwing it up from the candle into the air and back down. She hadn't realized that he paid that much attention to her bending. A rumble of thunder shook the skies. Mako continued, "Explain that to me. You're naturally a waterbender, right?"
"And isn't water's opposite fire? So shouldn't you be averse to it?"
He had been asking her questions all night, and it kind of unnerved her. She didn't mind answering them, but the fact that it was Mako and he acted (it was acting, right?) like he wanted to know her, really know her… it was a strange feeling. She never knew what to expect from Mako. For the few weeks that they'd known each other, he kept changing his demeanor around her, going from being a complete jerk to being civil and praising her to not wanting her help to holding her hand. And ever since the two of them had saved Bolin, he'd been swinging back and forth even more. She never knew what he was thinking, never knew how he felt. He was so guarded.
It drove her crazy.
"Tenzin explained it to me once. He said that it's more about personality and less about the starting element. It's just that in most cases, the opposite element is the problem." He nodded, and she shrugged. "I guess I've always felt an attraction to fire. Sometimes I feel like I'm more comfortable with it than waterbending."
"I wonder why that is," Mako said, sitting forward and lighting a fire in the middle of his palms. She looked over at it and stared at the swirls of yellow, red, and orange billowing between his hands. She approached him and scooped the little ball of flames from him with her fingers. It pulsed against her touch, alive. With each breath she took, the fire reacted accordingly.
"Well," she began, "it's bright. It's hot and fierce." The pulse of the fire matched that of her heartbeat as she cradled it against her and stared at its flickering motions. "You're the firebender… you tell me."
"It's entrancing," Mako said softly.
Her eyes flicked up and met his. They drew her in, dark and intense and burning. The flames she held dissipated when she stepped forward, reaching out in front of her. She touched his scarf, running her fingers down the red fabric; he sat unmoving as she touched it. Her voice was quiet. "And I've always liked its colors." His scarf was as wet as the rest of him. Their eyes met again.
He was so close to her, and he wouldn't (and she wouldn't) look away. The candle's light shone on him, highlighting the edges of his jaw, his cheekbone, his eyelashes, his set lips. The other half of his face was hidden in shadow. A trickle of water from his hair tracked a path down his face, collecting underneath his chin. She felt a drop roll down from her forehead onto her nose. Another rolled off her arm. Moments passed, their hearts beat, loud and heavy, their lungs inhaled and exhaled, and their intense, silent stare continued. The rain was the only sound.
Korra had never felt like this before. She very rarely was able to read emotions, including her own, but right now she knew she was nervous. Nervous and excited. He was so, well, beautiful, and she couldn't help but feel the stirring desire, slow and warm in her chest, to step forward and press her mouth gently against his. But like always, she had no idea what he was thinking. He was a mystery. Half the time she was sure that he hated her, and the other half she wasn't sure of anything. He couldn't possibly be feeling the same way she did right now. Could he?
A flash of lightning illuminated the room, and her gaze tore away from Mako and returned to the candlelight.
The lonely fire flickered. Wax steadily dripped down the sides of the candle. The desire hadn't left. He was so close to her, but what would he do? What was he thinking? A rush of air moved through the apartment and extinguished the candle.
Mako stifled a laugh as he relit it. "It's also unpredictable."
Korra's lips collided with his, quick and without hesitation.
He didn't respond the way she was hoping. In fact, he didn't respond at all. She pulled away, eyes darting around the dark room.
She stepped back and turned away from him. "Sorry. I'll just… I'll go home."
He slid off the table and grabbed her wrist. "Please don't."
She wanted to be angry (really angry) with him. She wanted to storm out in a fuss, swim back to the island, and complain to Pema about it all while warning Jinora and Ikki not to like any boys ever because they were all just jerks, but when he touched her, she became rooted to the spot.
Her tone was low and controlled. "Why do you act like you hate me?"
He dropped her hand from his grip. "Hate you? You think I hate you?"
She whipped around. "You certainly act like it. Just now! Earlier today! … All the time!"
"Korra, I…" He struggled to find the words. "I'm sorry. I think I'm just… nervous. I dunno. And I… I told Bolin that this was a bad idea, but he refused to listen, and I just knew I was going to mess this up!"
"Bolin? What does Bolin have to do with this? What are you talking about?"
"Because he knows that I'm crazy about you and made me go out with you… just the two of us. And I was going to bring you to more places, and we would have gone to the park and I planned on kissing you there, but then it started raining and it ruined everything." She had never seen him flustered like this. She couldn't help but laugh, and the anger that had been bubbling under her skin disappeared. "I'm sorry," he apologized again. "I've just never gotten this close to a girl before. I'm an idiot."
The tiniest of smiles appeared on her face, and she turned back to him. "That's true."
He put his hands on her shoulders. "Please don't go. I'm just stupid. Besides, I wouldn't want you getting sick or anything going back out in that rain. I don't think the ferry is running in this storm, and I won't let you swim back. Please stay here."
He'd been such a mystery, so calm and collected, but when he talked like this, he really did seem nervous, like he didn't have a clue what he was doing. He wasn't as put together as he wanted people to think, and that intrigued her. She opened her mouth to speak, to say that it was okay and she could go home anyway or that she was still sorry (because maybe she was a bad kisser? She'd never kissed before, and it was unnerving…), her nose started tickling and she sneezed. She sniffed, and Mako smiled.
"If you insist on not bending, shouldn't you get out of those wet clothes?"
She tugged on his scarf, pulling it off from around his neck. "Shouldn't you, too?" she said, laughing and dangling the scarf on the floor. She expected a chuckle, something, out of him. But he had that look in his eyes, the same one as before, deep and intense. Before she could do anything, he had tilted her chin up to his face and kissed her softly, sweetly. He was shaking; she realized then that she was trembling too.
As he kissed her, she reached out, unhooking his belt. It fell to the floor. He pressed his forehead against hers, and closed his eyes, breathing softly. Her hands moved to his jacket, fumbling at the ties until they opened and then removing it. Korra swallowed. She tugged on the bottom of his undershirt, which he deftly pulled over his head, letting it drop on the floor next to him. Slowly, her hands moved forward, resting lightly on his bare chest. Her fingers lingered there for a moment before ghosting down to his stomach, feeling the muscles tense and strong there. His skin was smooth. Her hands kept exploring, moving to his back, tight and powerful, but lean. She appreciated the movement underneath his skin as he slowly, cautiously, leaned forward even closer and placed a kiss on her eyelid.
Why had he waited so long to reveal how he felt? A rush of excitement, mingled with nerves, filled her core.
Mako's hands were like ice as they brushed against her stomach, tugging at her shirt. It stuck to her like a second skin, unwilling to budge, but he peeled it off her, cold and wet, and flung it away. His eyes slid across her as he took in the sight of her flesh, dark and lovely, and his fingers gently caressed her back, experiencing that which they'd never before seen. She wanted him, but…
"I've never gotten this close to a boy, either." She touched his forearm, admiring the sinew underneath.
His voice was soft. "Are you scared?" And when he said it, she realized that yes, she was.
He swallowed. "Me too."
They stood in the middle of the dark room, the dim light of the candle still flitting about gently, their hands exploring each other, feeling the humanness of their bodies, caressing the unseen bits of skin, the curves and contours and imperfections. Their eyes bore into each other. "Fire can burn you if you aren't careful," Korra said, her voice shaking and heart pounding.
His gaze on her softened, and he pulled her close against his body. She closed her eyes as he hugged her, resting her head against his shoulder. "I'm always careful," he whispered. His voice made her shiver. He set her away from him again. "Are you cold?"
"A little, maybe," she admitted.
"Water tribe girl's getting soft."
She laughed lightly, but the room swallowed up the sound. His touch slid down from her shoulder to her arm to her hand, where he linked his fingers (he didn't let go).
"C'mon, let's go warm up." He led her over to his bed and stopped at the foot. "Um," he hesitated. "I should..." He proceeded to unfasten his wet pants and let them fall to the floor. She swallowed. Curiously, she watched as he climbed into his bed. His legs were strong, firebender's legs, and the muscles contracted as he crawled over the bed. She stumbled out of her soaked bottoms and fell into the bed behind him, feeling awkward and terrified and wonderful. She sat up, her knees curled underneath her, feeling the chill of the air on her skin. She normally had no qualms about her body, and had been without clothes in front of people many times before. But even with her undergarments still on, she felt naked.
He lay out on the bed, propping himself up with his elbow, eyes drinking her in. A blanket was pushed to the side. She reached up slowly and gently removed the little metal hairpieces that she typically wore during the day. One by one, she pulled them out, and her hair tumbled down to her shoulders. She shook her head, airing out the tresses. He rested a hand on her waist.
"We don't have to… do… anything," he said slowly, calmly, controlled.
"What do you mean?"
"I… just want to be with you. We can… we can just lay here if you want."
She nodded her consent and lay down next to him. With one hand, he tossed the blanket over the two of them, and when their skin touched again, she realized how cold she was, sending a quiver through her body. Underneath the covers, Mako took her in his arms, holding her quietly.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and tangled up her legs with his, skin rubbing across skin in a perfect, innocent way. She just wanted to touch, breathe, be, and Mako let down all his guards and walls and mysterious ways and held her close. Fingers intertwined, legs locked, and they were together.
They stared at each other as the storm rained down, refusing to look anywhere else but at the other. Mako rested his hand on her face and stroked her cheek, eventually running his hand through her hair, combing his fingers gently through knots.
And after minutes of silent contentment of touching her and being touched, he cleared his throat. "You know why I love fire?"
Korra had already forgotten the conversation. "Why?" she asked, curious.
He pressed his lips against her forehead. "Because it's so beautiful."
She smiled and kissed his lips, warm and soft. She rested her head down and embraced him even tighter than before, listening to the sounds of the rainstorm.
They lay there together, breathing each other in, sharing their fire, falling in love, slow and gentle and pure. Korra had never experienced anything like it before.
And it thrilled her.
a/n: SWEET BABY BACK RIBS WHAT HAVE I DONE!
So. Hey. This was my YEAH LET'S WRITE SOME SEXY MAKORRA and then chickening out of actual smut since I'm a big chicken, so everything ended up awkward and not sexy at all. YOU MAD, BRO?
(Oh, beeteedubs, I shamelessly listened to Christina Aguilera's El Beso del Final while writing, so it definitely set the mood IF YA KNOW WHAT I MEAN.)