Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender or The Legend of Korra. Bryke are just letting me play with their creation for a while.
A/N: Just read and enjoy!
"So…uh…do you like food?"
"Seafood! Do you like seafood?"
"Yeah, I like seafood."
"Oh…I like seafood, too."
"Great. So…are you hungry?"
"I could eat, sure."
"Did you maybe wanna go for some…uh, some…"
Mako kept his fists clenched at his sides, restraining himself from slamming his palms to his brow and calling the whole thing off. Korra scuffed the toe of her boot against the gym floor, arms crossed over her chest as she looked anywhere but at him. They were both nervous, and it showed pathetically.
"Should we go?"
Mako cringed. He hadn't meant to shout. He saw Korra's shoulders quake in silent laughter and nearly groaned at his awkwardness.
"Come on, City Boy, I know a pretty good sushi place by the docks."
Mako was thankful for Korra's easy decisiveness and followed her out of the gym. He ran a hand through his hair, cursing to himself when he realized he'd forgotten to put his gloves on. Not that Korra didn't know about the burn scars and calluses that ran along his knuckles and down his palms, but he was self-conscious about them, the faded pink tissue reminding Mako of those early illegal street fights that had kept him and Bolin alive for so many years.
He stuffed his hands in his pockets just as they exited the arena, the cool evening air gently patting their flushed faces. He heard Korra sigh and was enchanted by the sweet sound. The breeze was rustling through her hair, still damp from the shower she'd taken after their practice. It was pulled back in her usual style, the long dark tendrils sticking to her neck. Her expression was serene, and it convinced Mako that asking Korra out on a date wasn't going to end in a total disaster. She turned to smile at him, and he found himself grinning back.
"It's this way," she said, taking the lead. Mako followed her closely, the pair walking in silence until they reached the sushi restaurant. They were ushered in with open arms by the hostess and given a private booth. Stepping onto the raised wooden platform, Korra and Mako sat across from each other.
"This is nice," he said, getting comfortable on the cushions.
"Food's even nicer," Korra promised, perusing the menu.
"Do you and Bolin come here a lot?"
"I've never come here with Bolin. Or anyone else, actually," Korra admitted softly, eyeing Mako bashfully before returning her attention to the menu. "So, what do you like?"
"Anything, really," Mako said, his stomach so wound up in knots he regretted asking Korra out to eat. It seemed that dating was proving to be a real hazard to his health. He let Korra order their meal while he chose the tea, a nice soothing ginseng to help calm his nerves. As they waited, Mako fiddled with his chopsticks while Korra toyed with the oil lamp in the sconce of their booth, using her firebending to engorge then diminish the thin flame.
"So," Korra finally drawled.
"So," Mako parroted, once again feeling like a spectacular idiot. "Um, how did you know about this place?"
"Well, it's near the ferry port," Korra shrugged. "I actually came in the first time to pick up some dumplings for Tenzin's kids, you know, bring them back a treat. I ended up leaving with five boxes of take-out. Everything on their menu just looked so good! And it's great food, trust me."
"I trust you."
Korra paused in the middle of her animated conversation.
"About the food!" Mako clarified, rubbing the back of his neck. "I mean, you eat like an elephant-mandrill so you'd know good food." He chuckled clumsily, until he realized what he'd said. Golden eyes going wide, he looked at Korra who was pouting, her deadpan expression a perfect copy of the one she wore the first time he told her that her bending was 'not bad'. Before he could apologize, a small, but very hot, flame was bent dangerously close to his face, singeing his eyebrows. Patting at the short smoking hairs, Mako glared at Korra, but managed to keep his ire at bay. "OK, maybe I deserved that."
"You called me an elephant-mandrill. You're lucky I went for the eyebrows and not your scarf," Korra snorted, shifting on her cushions. Mako groaned at his stupidity, earning another wary look from Korra. Thankfully, their food arrived and both teens were spared from having to make idle chit-chat.
Mako perused the selection, delighted by the spread. There were two bowls of rice, one steamed and the other chicken fried with egg. There were two different kinds of dumplings, each one slathered in a sticky cherry sauce. The beef mushroom rolls were saturated in soy sauce and shallots. Bowls of udon, fried vegetables, and edamame had also been placed on the table, steaming so much that it was momentarily hard for Mako to see Korra sitting across from him. Finally, there was a heavy square platter near to overflowing with various kinds of sushi, hand rolls, and maki. Taking up his chopsticks, Mako started with the beef mushroom rolls.
"Well?" Korra asked even before Mako had a chance to swallow the food.
"Not bad," he admitted, throwing her a knowing glare which had her rolling her eyes, but also grinning. The dinner should have gone seamlessly from there. After all, neither teen was saying much except how good the food was. However, even a simple meal could not pass uneventfully for the firebender and the Avatar.
Aside from Korra snorting tea out of her nose when Mako had attempted to make a joke (apparently his expression at her reaction was funnier than the joke itself), there was the incident involving the spicy unagi maki rolls.
"But I thought you'd like it," Korra exclaimed, cheeks blazing indignantly as she ordered another pitch of water. "You're a firebender."
"What does that have to do with anything?" Mako croaked, holding his tongue out of his mouth like a panting Naga.
"I thought all firebenders liked spicy things," she shrugged. "It's just a little lava sauce."
"Over maki stuffed with fireflake tempura and unagi marinated in curry," Mako hissed, not even bothering to pour a glass of water when their harried waiter arrived with the pitcher. He snatched the jug rudely and lifted it to his lips, taking deep, loud gulps. Korra found herself fascinated by the way Mako's throat moved as he drank, her eyes trained on the mesmerizing bob of his Adam's-apple.
Suddenly, neither teen was very hungry.
Of course, their next row came when their frazzled waiter asked if they wanted separate bills.
"Korra it's on me," Mako insisted, knowing it was the gentlemanly thing to do to pay for any expenses on their date.
"Mako, it's fine. I've got my own dinner."
"So do I."
The pair stared at one another, Korra pouting while Mako remained stoic and uninterested, despite the exasperated twitch of his right eyebrow.
"Fine," Korra scoffed. "I'll pay for your dinner, you pay for mine."
"But that doesn't –"
"That's the way it's gonna be, bucko," Korra insisted, slamming her fist on the table, their empty dishes clattering while the waiter whimpered. Knowing that there was no more room for negotiation, Mako sighed and nodded, fishing some yuans out of his pocket. Korra practically crowed in triumph, handing her own yuans to the waiter before shuffling to lower herself from the dais.
"Here," Mako said, hurrying to her and offering a hand. Korra stared at Mako's upturned palm like he was presenting her with a cabbage slug. Insulted, he let his arm drop to his side only to feel the back of Korra's cool fingers press gently to his brow. Stunned, he didn't move, waiting for her to explain her actions.
"Well, you're kind of warm, but I think that's from the lava sauce," she said. Rolling his eyes, Mako pulled away from Korra, not appreciating her sense of humor. He was just trying to be chivalrous, something his mother had told him all girls liked.
Then again, Korra wasn't like all girls.
Exiting the restaurant, they stood under the eaves awkwardly, Mako's hands dug deeply into his pockets while Korra swayed, arms clasped behind her back.
"Guess I'd better get to the ferry," she finally said.
"Did you…maybe wanna walk the boardwalk?" he wondered.
"Why?" Korra asked.
"Just to walk," he answered, shrugging his shoulders.
"Mako, are you feeling alright?"
"Do you wanna go for a walk or not?" he barked, irritated by the way she cast worried eyes upon him.
"Alright, alright. Lead the way, Captain."
Once again rolling his eyes, Mako turned and started for the boardwalk. It wasn't very far from the restaurant, and the cool but calm evening had attracted quite a few people to promenade the long stretch of wooden planks that paralleled Yue Bay. Korra had been to the boardwalk a few times, but it seemed to change with every visit she made, much to the Avatar's delight. She was genuinely curious, stopping to watch a juggler and an acrobat perform tricks for copper pieces, snooping at all of the stalls stuffed with overpriced Republic City souvenirs, contemplating postcards and moccasins, spritzing samples of perfume, looking for the incense Tenzin liked, and chatting with vendors and other shoppers as they ambled along. Mako stayed in the background for the most part, watching Korra and finding peace in simply seeing her have a good time.
"Oh!" Korra cried, her attention captured by a brightly lit kiosk, clear glass jars of sweets lining the counter. Korra seemed particularly enchanted by a jar filled with a jade green rock candy.
"Jennamite?" Mako said, reading the label.
"My earthbending sifu would bring me some whenever he came back from visiting the Earth Kingdom. It's my favorite."
Seeing Korra's face alight with the memory of the treat, Mako took some coins out of his pocket and paid for two small bags of the hard candy. He handed one to Korra, and then proceeded to pop one of his own pieces of jennamite into his mouth. Korra stared at the boy like he had grown a second head.
"What? I like sweet things," he said noncommittally, continuing down the boardwalk. Korra's eyes traced the lines of the firebender's retreating back, smirking to herself as she crunched on a piece of her rock candy.
"Good to know," she whispered to herself before rushing to walk alongside her friend. "So," she started, "we had a good practice today."
"Yeah," Mako agreed around another piece of candy. "It would have been better if Bolin hadn't disappeared halfway through, though."
"He was just excited about seeing Asami at the racetrack," Korra excused. "I actually think it's kind of cute. He gets so flustered whenever I even mention her. Maybe I should invite her to our practice tomorrow."
"Knowing Bolin, he's already done that himself," Mako commented, earning an easy laugh from Korra.
"Cool! It's you!"
Jolted out of their conversation, the teenagers turned around and spotted three children, two girls and a boy, pointing in their direction and calling excitedly for their father as they approached the pair.
"I didn't know you liked the boardwalk," the older girl said, holding her little brother's hand. He was staring up at the two teens, sucking shyly on a thumb, dark green eyes wide with innocent awe.
"Neat, neat, neat!" the younger girl sang, jumping up and down as she clapped, reminding Korra of a certain excitable airbender.
The children were no doubt thrilled about catching the Avatar walking around on a date. Mako looked at Korra out of the corner of his eye. She was preening under the children's attention. Even he couldn't deny that she was a bit of a limelight lover, but not in an obnoxious way.
Well, not too obnoxious.
"Would you, I mean, will you please sign my flag?"
The older girl had asked the question, taking a well worn looking Fire Ferrets flag out of her coat pocket.
"We don't have a pen," Korra said sadly.
"Daddy! I need a pen!" the girl roared, her cry alerting every passerby on the boardwalk to her emergency. Chuckling, a rotund and jolly man came up to the group, a pen caught between his beefy fingers. He patted his eldest daughter on the head, smiling as he offered the pen…
"You're her favorite player," he commented.
Korra and Mako's eyes bugged out for a moment, surprised that it was the firebender who had garnered such hero-worship from the three kids. Seeing the astounded look on Mako's face, Korra laughed and pushed her friend forward, enjoying as he hastily signed the girl's flag and listened to her as she spouted off all of his stats, her little sister reenacting some of Mako's most well known plays. It was nearly half an hour later by the time the father could drag his children away, and even then the older girl had only been persuaded to leave after Mako promised to leave special backstage passes for her and her family to collect at the box office at their next match.
"Look at you, Mr. Ladies' Man," Korra teased. "Now whose got himself a crazy fangirl?"
"Shut-up," he said through his smile. Korra laughed.
"I think tomorrow I'm going to tell Bolin all about your new girlfriend."
"What?" Mako cried, completely missing the joke. Korra's smile turned into a pout as she critically glared at the firebender.
"Seriously, what is your problem?" she asked.
"Nothing," he insisted.
"You're acting weird. I mean, weird for you."
"Oh yeah, how so?"
"You're jumpy, nervous, and can't seem to decide if you're brooding or actually having a good time."
"I'm having a good time."
And as if to prove his point, Mako reached out and took Korra's hand in his, squeezing lightly, hoping the gesture alone would let her know that he truly was enjoying their date, even if he did have an awkward way of showing it.
Korra stiffened when Mako took her hand, walking uneasily beside him, her fingers limp in his grasp. Realizing that he had perhaps crossed a boundary that she wasn't ready for, Mako was about to release her hand when Korra finally moved, adjusting her fingers so that they interlocked with his, returning his squeeze. He stared at the top of her head, almost afraid to look at her face. If he had, he would have noticed that her features had softened, her eyes twinkling like little stars, her lips curving up into a content smile.
They walked down the rest of the boardwalk that way, commenting on strategies, other pro-bending teams, Korra's airbending training, Mako's odd jobs around the arena, even mundane things like the weather. They reached the ferry much sooner than Mako had expected, and he was actually surprised by his disappointment to see their evening end. But as it was, they had spent a little over two hours together, and it was late. They had a long day of training ahead of them so it really was best to say their goodnights.
"Thanks," Korra started, digging at the ground with the toe of her boot again, "well, for the food and…stuff."
"Mmm," Mako answered.
"I guess I'd better go then," she said, about to slip her fingers out of his, only to squeak when Mako pulled her forward and wrapped her up in what was probably the most awkward one-armed hug ever suffered by any Avatar. She didn't return the embrace, didn't even know what to think of it. Mako quickly removed himself from her when she didn't respond, looking uncomfortable and unsure. Worried, Korra refused to release his hand and took a step closer to him.
"Mako?" she asked kindly. "Are you sure you're OK?"
"I'm sorry," he sighed, angry and defeated. "I'm not very good at this sort of thing."
"What sort of thing?" Korra asked, her brows crinkling in concern.
"This…you know!" he babbled, flailing his free hand between them. Korra's expression was still confused and she shrugged her shoulders, completely at a loss. Mako felt himself cringe as he forced the words through his teeth. "This…dating thing."
Korra's eyes widened, her aquamarine irises growing large and luminous while her brows rose high, nearly reaching her hairline. Mako could feel his neck getting hot as Korra stared at him, preparing himself for her teasing onslaught confirming his utter lack of romantic skills.
"This is a date?"
And now he wanted to die.
If there really were great spirits, if Yue was as merciful as all the legends claimed her to be, she would send a bolt of lighting out of the clear night sky and strike the firebender dead on the spot, leaving behind nothing but his smoldering red scarf as a reminder of his sad, little existence.
She didn't know it was a date.
How could she be so stupid?
How could he be such an idiot?
He'd never actually said the words 'Korra would you like to go on a date with me?'. He'd simply asked her out to eat after practice, never specifying that the outing was not platonic, at least not on his end. So, there was no reason at all for Korra to even suspect that she was on a date with her firebending teammate. Now it was all making sense. Her fighting him over the bill, her asking if he was well, the way she'd tensed when he'd taken her hand. She had no idea that the last few hours had been his bumbling way of trying to be a charming date.
Mako was completely and utterly humiliated.
And, from the way the Avatar's jaw dropped, the blush that had overtaken her rich coffee complexion, and the way her eyes kept flitting in all directions but his, Korra was absolutely mortified.
"How?" Korra finally sputtered. "No, I take it back. Why?"
"Look, just forget it," Mako groaned, shaking his head as if the gesture alone would erase the entire evening. He moved to disentangle his fingers from Korra's hand, but the stubborn girl held tight, her grip almost painful.
"No. I want to know why you asked me out on this…date."
"Why do guys usually ask girls out on dates?" he snarled back.
"I know why guys ask girls out," Korra retorted just as snappily. "I want to know why you asked me."
"It's your fault!" he bit back, his voice going low and edgy, like the choppy waters of the ocean during a full moon. "You kissed me."
Korra's blush deepened, recalling a memory that was scarcely two weeks old.
She and Mako had been standing outside of the pro-bending arena. The firebender had been fumbling through an inelegant – but charming in its own dorky way – thank you to the Avatar for saving himself and Bolin from a gang of Equalists. Korra had been amused by her friend's awkwardness, and would have teased him, but there was something about the way the lights from the arena softened his angular features, his pale skin glowing with warmth, his eyes shining like little copper fires.
Korra had always been impetuous, and really, when it came to Mako, she just couldn't help herself.
She had leaned forward, eyes closed and lips puckered, interrupting whatever it was that her firebending teammate was saying, and kissed him full on the mouth. His lips had been dry, her own chapped. She'd pushed against his mouth with the same rough but eager attitude she had about everything else in her life, savoring the way his lips felt on hers, like marshmallows, fluffy but firm.
She'd let her lips linger for what could have been hours, relishing the rush, feeding the electricity that coursed through her body, making her head spin, her heart race, her thighs tingle, and her breasts heavy.
But then something had occurred to the teenager, and the reality that crashed down on her was like the weight of the entire world.
Mako wasn't kissing her back.
He'd just stood there, ramrod straight, unresponsive. The realization had been shattering. Korra had moved away from Mako, barely taking the time to examine his face – a strange contortion of bewilderment and concern – before running away.
"You kissed me," he repeated, bringing Korra back to the present. "I thought that you –"
"You didn't kiss me back," Korra interrupted, hurt. "I thought that you –"
"You didn't give me a chance to!" Mako declared, annoyed.
"Well sorry! I thought most guys would jump at the chance to kiss the Avatar," Korra yelled back.
"I'm not most guys," Mako informed, a bit insulted. "And yeah, I bet 'most guys' would love to have the Avatar kiss them. Korra kissing them, however, is a very different thing."
Korra was struck silent at Mako's confession. She was still caught up in her indignation at his accusing attitude, but she couldn't help the bubble of hope that flipped inside of her belly.
He said that she hadn't given him a chance to kiss her back. Which meant that, if given the chance, he would have. A smile full of too much ego and even more amusement spread across Korra's face, giving the firebender pause. He knew that look, and nothing good ever came from it.
"You like me," Korra said. There was no question, just a statement. The way she grinned cockily at him, Mako wished he could deny everything, but the hog-monkey was out of the bag. He raised his free hand to the back of his neck, rubbing vigorously, all too aware of Korra's fingers still tangled with his own, her thumb rubbing along his knuckles, tracing his scars. He gulped when she licked her lips and moved closer, rising up on her toes so that she could access his face. Like a butterfly-moth drawn to the flame, Mako leaned forward, meeting Korra halfway. His eyes were already half-lidded and his lips were starting to pucker. He would kiss Korra back this time and there would be no misunderstandings.
She didn't kiss his lips.
Giggling, Korra pressed her lips to the left corner of Mako's mouth, lingering on the spot lightly, never turning her head to press her mouth greedily against his. It was a sweet and tender gesture, and it left Mako wanting more.
"I had fun on our date," Korra whispered, still chuckling, her eyes alight with more than the reflection of the moon. She was happy.
"Yeah. Me too," he managed to mutter, lips quirking.
"I'll see you at practice tomorrow."
She let go of his hand and turned to board the ferry when she was pulled back, Mako's fingers gripping her by her upper arms before spinning her around so that she bumped into his chest. She looked up at him, about to call him a jerk when the firebender lowered his head to hers. They were so close that their noses brushed together and Korra inwardly groaned as she felt another blush stain her cheeks.
"Just so we're clear," Mako said softly. And then he kissed her.
Just like before, his lips were fluffy marshmallows, but this time there was a taste of fire to his mouth, the heat spreading like sassy little sparks. Korra kept herself stiff in Mako's embrace, at first because his impulsive kiss had taken her by surprise, but then because she wanted the firebender to understand what it was like to kiss your crush and not have them return it.
But Mako was on to her, lifting his lips off her just for a moment before delving back, capturing her bottom lip between his, suckling tantalizingly slow, daring her to continue resisting him. The pressure of his kiss made Korra whimper in defeat before she threw her arms around his neck and pressed into him.
As she licked at Mako's upper lip, she was vaguely aware of his long calloused fingers framing her face, angling her jaw and opening her mouth so that he could deepen the kiss. He burrowed his tongue into her mouth, a bit sloppily, but eager and searching. Korra copied Mako's actions, tasting honey and smoke on his breath, her hands caressing his neck and scarf as she let herself float away on a cloud of pleasure.
Mako stayed rooted to the earth, refusing the titillating temptation to let his mind drift outside of himself, leaving his body free to simply feel the moment. He wanted to remember everything. How Korra's hair was as soft as freshly cleaned linens, how her skin was damp from the cool moisture that had settled in the air over the course of the evening, how readily she leaned into him, her strong body pliant but firm against his own, how her fingers tickled the nape of his neck, seeming to sizzle his skin.
He wanted to remember how warm and wet her lips were, the slickness of her tongue against his own, the teasing muscle tracing his teeth before returning to its own cavern, playing a game of tag. He wanted to remember how sweet she tasted, like the jennamite candy he had bought for her earlier, and he wanted to remember how, when he sucked on her upper lip, she made a purring keening noise in the back of her throat that made his inner fire blaze against his well locked control, urging him to give into anything Korra asked if only she kept making that sound.
But most especially, he wanted to remember that feeling of holding her, and knowing that he would never, ever let her go.
Earth is the element of substance – Iroh
Happy Friday everyone! We'll bet getting a new episode of Korra tomorrow, so this was a little something to tide you over until then. The title may have tipped you off, but there will be four chapters in this collection, so you can look forward to more over the coming weeks. I hope you'll come back for more.
I realize you may be wondering why this fic is rated 'M' when this chapter was pretty tame. Well...come back next week for chapter two, then you'll know.
If you're feeling up to it, please leave a comment, question or review.