The Provider

It wasn't that she had expected anything grand. Quite the contrary, Bolin had hinted many times that the brother's means were modest and their home quaint…but as her booted foot nudged the door to their loft apartment open Korra found herself grimacing. Light flooded through tall windows, affording her a glorious view out over Yue Bay; and serving to illuminate the poor condition of the room in which she now stood. A threadbare carpet was laid haphazardly over rotting floorboards that creaked noisily and threatened to give way as she crossed the short distance to the dilapidated sofa on the far side of the space. The malformed cushions showed evidence of having been carefully mended time and again, and looked so uninviting that the young woman chose to stand rather than rest upon them and risk a loose spring in her backside. She folded her arms across her chest and held her elbows in her palms as she glanced around the rest of the room. There was an old crate in one corner that was neatly draped with a lacy table linen. As she padded over to it, though, she could clearly see the tears and stains upon it—it was as if it had been pulled from a garbage bin. It probably had been, she mused absently.

"What are you doing here?" A voice cut through the silence, startling her out of her thoughts and nearly causing her to jerk around in surprise. She caught herself, and turned slowly to face the speaker.

"Mako, hey…" She offered him a conciliatory smile, dropping her hands to her sides to fiddle with the fur embellishment on her outfit. "I just thought I'd drop by and see if you and Bolin were up for grabbing a bite to eat—"

"Can't. Sorry." He said matter of factly as he strode past her and deposited a small paper bag atop the crate. Callused fingers moved to his throat, gently tugging his weathered red scarf loose and unpinning the top half of his jacket.

"Oh." She murmured, her expression plainly spelling out her disappointment. Her eyes shifted to the steaming bag. "What's that?"

The firebender did not answer right away; pausing to study her for a moment. "Dinner." He looked away quickly, and if Korra hadn't known better she might have thought she'd seen his pale cheeks flush ever so slightly.

The Avatar allowed a grin to cross her face. "Great! I'll just join you guys here, then! So what's on the menu?" Her smile faded as quickly as the frown spread over Mako's lips. "Or…I could…you know—go back to the Temple and see you in the morning…"

"No…" He cut in, his voice sounding smaller than she was used to hearing it. "Stay. We'll make do." Steam wafted up from the bag as he tugged it open and pulled out a small carton of noodles. "It's not much...Money's tight this week."

Korra's blue eyes roamed around the sparsely appointed room. "Seems like money's tight every week for you guys." She bit her tongue the moment the words had left her mouth, but it was too late to take them back. "I'm sorry—I didn't mean it like that."

"I know." Mako whispered, and pulled two pairs of mismatched chopsticks out of a jar on a shelf; offering Korra the set with fewer nicks in the handles. "Don't worry about it. Here, Bolin won't be back until later. You can share my half."

She forced a little smile, but the mirth had already died away. "Thanks." She hoped he wouldn't notice when she only ate two small bites—Pema would have plenty of food back at the Temple and Korra knew she could put together a hearty meal for herself there. As she watched the firebender ravenously slurp down the rest of his portion of the noodles—he was careful to leave the larger half for Bolin—it occurred to her that she truly was fortunate to have all that she did. Being the Avatar had afforded her far more than simple necessities. Until leaving the White Lotus compound behind and fleeing to Republic City, Korra hadn't realized just what a blessing it was that she had never gone hungry a day in her life. She was certain that neither of the brothers could say the same.

"So you'll be here in the morning for practice, right" Mako asked some time later. They had chatted idly for an hour or so about some of the lesser known rules and regulations for Pro-Bending, but it was getting late and if she didn't get back soon Tenzin would surely be waiting with a lecture.

"Bright and early…" She lamented.

"Good." He stood, and inclined his head toward her with what looked like the beginnings of a smile. "I'll see you then."

"Yeah." Korra nodded, brushing past him and heading for the door. As she reached it she turned, glancing over her shoulder at the firebender. His dark amber eyes were upon her; a thoughtful look on his handsome face. "Hey Mako?"

"Hm?" An eyebrow quirked up and his hands went to his pockets.

Korra offered him a genuine smile. "I enjoyed tonight. Thank you for dinner."

There was no mistaking the crimson stains on his cheeks this time. "You're…um…welcome. Anytime."

The next morning she showed up ten minutes late for practice; but when Korra pushed the bag of pastries into his hands and flashed him a pretty smile, Mako only shrugged and muttered "Good morning".

Bolin wondered if his brother was losing his mind.

A/N: I don't even know. I've got a food obsession, I guess—it seems to be really prevalent in my fics so far. Anyway, I'm just loving Legend of Korra so far…Unfortunately there are six days inbetween episodes, so we've all got to settle for fanfiction in the meantime. Or patience…there's also that. This is pretty well intended to be a one-shot, unless I find myself suddenly flooded with inspiration.

Drop a review if you have the time! I'm still new to this writing thing and would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!