note: Hopping onto the Korra bandwagon, yes I am. This piece takes place after episode 4, probably won't make much sense otherwise.


She's tired, and afraid.

Across the courtyard, Bolin sits cross-legged, playing a game of jacks with Ikki and Meelo. Korra wants to play too, sort of, but no one's ever taught her and she doesn't feel like asking.

The Avatar shouldn't need to ask about something as simple as jacks.

Republic City is stifling hot, an unnatural sort of heat that even batters at the air temple. Korra stretches out across the stone floor, sticky with sweat; airbending practice is over, and she's free to go wherever she wants, but she can't get herself to move.

She imagines for a second that there's something heavy in her belly, in her lungs, filling all the dark spaces between her ribs and weighing her down—like putty, or cement.

She's tired, and afraid.

Korra remembers a hand on her face, the fingers tight and bruising. A rough hand and a pair of eyes yellow in the firelight.

"Mako! Hey!"

Bolin's voice cuts through the air, and Korra still doesn't move, doesn't lift her head towards the sound of footsteps grinding against stone floor. There's an answering hey, and an expectant silence. He's waiting for her to say hello, Korra thinks, she's always been the first to say hello.

This time, she gives him silence and a half-hearted wave. There's another split second of hesitation, and there might even have been an intake of breath and unformed words, but it's not enough. He moves on to Bolin and she catches a few words: date and maybe I really like her.

It stings a bit, but she doesn't really have time to think about things like that—boys and all the other rituals of growing up she'd learned about and tried to imitate.

Above her, Korra can see slivers of the blue sky ringing the pagoda roof. If she closes her eyes, the shade turns dark and it becomes night. The stones digging into her back reminds of her knees pressed to another floor, and hands hard at her shoulders, the pulse points at her wrists.

She's tired, and afraid.

Sometimes, she wants to talk to Mako and Bolin, really talk to them, because they're the only friends she's got that can actually talk back to her, and she wants more than just Tenzin's understanding arm around her shoulder or Tarrlock's condescending pleasantries; Korra wants someone to fight with her, to share the burden and make her feel less alone.

But Mako's first priority will always be Bolin and survival. He doesn't have time for abstract wars—if the brothers need to, they can always make a run for it to a bender-friendly country.

Korra's not looking for sympathy; she doesn't have any business dragging either Mako or Bolin into her fights. She's tired, and afraid, but sometimes the Avatar must stand alone.

So she finally pulls herself up, fingers scraping raw against the stone, and when she walks past the brothers, Korra smiles and doesn't say a word.


note: Mako, learn to be a better friend like your brother.