what: Korra likes to give Mako nicknames - partly because he makes it so easy, and partly because she thinks it's hilarious that he always proves her point. A one-shot series.

who: Korra & Mako & Bolin.

when: between "The Revelation" and "A Voice in the Night."

where: the streets of Republic City.

why: City Boy.

1. City Boy

It took a lot of pleading, prodding, and, on Bolin's part, pouting to get Mako to agree - which, Korra thinks, is ridiculous - what can be easier than showing her around the city he's lived in his entire life, the city he knows so well? - but agree he has, and here they are, the three of them, on the sidewalk in front of the arena, looking up and down the street and trying to decide which way to go.

"So..." Korra says, to break the silence. "Where to?"

She glances over at Mako: He's standing a couple feet away from her and Bolin with his hands shoved deep into his pockets and his scarf pulled up to his face, and he's staring over at the sun, beginning to set behind the tall buildings. He doesn't answer.

Briefly catching her eye, Bolin bounds over to him and slings an arm around his neck, pulling him tight to his side. "C'mon, Mako, you're the official tour guide! Where are we going?"

Mako heaves a sigh, the kind that means he considers the whole thing a big waste of time, and for a second Korra's annoyed. They invited him along because he knows the ins and the outs of the city better than either of them, but it's not like like he's obligated to come with them; she's sure Bolin could manage just fine on his own.

Then she looks closer at him, at his face, and when she sees the crinkles at the corners of his eyes her anger recedes, a wave falling back into the ocean. It's the same way he looked the other night, in this same spot, after he climbed off Naga and hauled Bolin to his feet and tugged him into a rough hug. Korra remembers wondering, while she waited awkwardly off to one side, if he would ever let go.

She doesn't know Mako well enough (yet) to be sure, but the crinkle might be saying, I'm glad you're here.

He shrugs Bolin off, but he seems more relaxed now, more open, somehow. His scarf has fallen down from in front of his mouth.

"Have you seen the shipyards yet?" he asks her. "They're, uh, kinda cool this time of day."

"I saw most of 'em, yeah," she says. "How do you think I got here?"

Very quietly, he hums in thought.

"We could make our way downtown," Bolin suggests. "By the time we get down there, the clubs should be opening up."

Korra feels her own face light up. She'd like that - it sounds fun, exciting - best of all, reckless. (The Tenzin in her mind shakes his head, scowls, his arms crossed. As if you haven't had enough excitement since you arrived, Korra. She mentally waterbends him into Yue Bay.)

"Yeah!" she says, all enthusiasm. "Let's do it!"

Mako turns a stern glare on them. He looks older than he really is with that look, a middle-aged man reprimanding two youngsters. (Tenzin's frown in her head and she almost laughs out loud.) "We have practice in the morning," he reminds them, his voice sharp and firm. "We are not getting drunk tonight."

"Who said anything about drinking?" says Bolin innocently. "I just thought it'd fun to show Korra the nightlife."

"Yeah, it'd be fun to show me the nightlife!" she echoes.

Mako sighs again, but the crinkles around his eyes turn it into one of surrender. "Fine. We'll head down there" - he points toward the east - "and see what's around until we hit main street. Sound good?"

"I'm up for anything," she says. She levels her gaze on him and makes sure it's clear and steady, and she thinks for a moment that she really hates that she feels such a need to prove herself to him - and so they go.

Mako turns out to be a pretty terrible tour guide. Mainly it's Bolin who gestures at buildings and restaurants and shops that are getting ready to close, telling her who lives or lived where and where what happened and which place has the best noodles or the best dumplings and which vendor is the best haggler; although, to his credit, Mako never stops walking, never hesitates at a crossroads, leading them down streets that give Bolin plenty of ammunition to keep up his running commentary, and he does it so casually it feels more like they're just wandering around than anything else. Every now and then, Korra'll spot an opportunity for a good joke and she'll take it, and Bolin'll laugh and a couple times she even draws a half-mouth smile from Mako. They make a pretty good team.

Bolin has his muscley arm across her shoulders, and because it's longer than she is wide his wrist is dangling off one end; on her other side, even though he tries to prevent it, Mako's hip keeps bumping against her and every time it does this thrill jolts through her chest and sets it on fire and makes it hard to breathe until she knows she can hold herself back from doing something she might regret (or, more importantly, something he might regret). Their shadows are long in the fading orange light.

She hears a gurgling sound come from her left: Bolin's hand is on his stomach and he's looking down at it in surprise. Korra laughs - at least, until her own stomach growls, almost calling out to his. In the corner of her eye, Mako presses his lips together and turns his head, like he doesn't want her to see him laughing.

(Shame, she thinks, in that quiet, warm, bright corner of her mind, he looks so much better when he's happy.)

"This is gonna sound totally out of the blue," says Bolin, "but I think we should find someplace to eat."

Korra grins and Mako shrugs. Without a word, seemingly without thought, he turns right the next chance he gets. She's set to follow, but when Bolin stops, she's forced to stop with him.

"Hang on, there's a great place over this way!" He jerks his elbow down the street ahead.

Mako walks back to them and looks in the direction he's pointing. He stares for a few long seconds, his whole body stiff, like he's frozen solid. She and Bolin glance at each other. Cautiously, Korra steps toward him and stretches out her hand to his bicep.

"Mako?" she says softly.

He gives a start and his eyes are wide as they lock onto hers, the sunset casting shadows on his cheeks.

Bolin matches her tone. "You okay, bro?"

His face is unreadable - probably largely because he's just pulled his scarf up again and turned back around, not looking back.

"We'll find somewhere else to eat." Mako's words are short, clipped.

"What? Why? I go down there all the time, what's wrong with it?"

"C'mon, Bo."

"No." Bolin sets his jaw and his arm drops from around her. "Tell me why."

Mako twists around again, just his upper body, then one leg, and says nothing.

"I'm not a kid anymore!" Bolin says, and he stomps his foot. Coming from anyone else it'd be a contradiction, but when he does it the earth ripples and Mako loses his footing. "Tell me!"

The two brothers glare at each other. It's an incredibly tense moment and Korra feels like an intruder.

In the end it's Mako who looks away first, down at his hand, where he lights a fire in his palm and watches it while Bolin just keeps staring, his gaze unflinching, unwavering, hard as rock. Eyes still on the flames, Mako straightens. His expression is pitiful, almost wretched, his eyebrows knit close together, a crease between them. The fire burns out after a minute and he look back at Bolin, his face, his eyes, his voice softer.

"No, Bo."

This time, all the fight goes out of Bolin; he deflates. Korra wonders if he can tell.

Her heart is a block of ice, freezing her blood in her veins, pounding in her ears.

This is where. This is where.

She nudges him in the side, forcing her mouth into a smile. "You gotta stop being so picky, Bolin," she teases through a tight throat. Her arm snakes around his waist, squeezing because Bolin - poor Bolin, Bolin with his winning smile and curly hair and upturned nose, Bolin who isn't a kid anymore - doesn't know that he's been dancing on his parents' graves.

Mako waits for them to catch up before he - they start walking again, glancing over his shoulder as they go. Korra wraps her arm around his and he stiffens, but he doesn't pull away. All the ice inside her melts.

"All right, City Boy," she says, and she can see his eyes flick to her and away and then he's hiding his face like before, except maybe not for the same reason. "Apparently picky runs in the family," (and he knows she knows) "so since you denied us a perfectly good meal, it's your job to find us some food."

He sighs, and now it's just tired and world-weary and aged, as though he's used to it, expected nothing less. She hesitates; then she slides her hand down, around his wrist and his hand. It's still warm.

a/n: didn't expect/want/mean for this to be so angsty. hm.

so i'll be updating every couple of days - 'cause it usually takes me that long to write 'em - but, as a warning, i really suck at multi-chaps, even if they're not connected, so. yeah. heads up for that.

i'm not just taking nicknames from the show, by the way, although all of those will get an instance where Korra uses it in a way different from the way she does officially. i am coming up with some of my own, which hopefully won't end up too weird or derpy. these aren't gonna be in any particular order, and some will definitely have more Makorra than others (and trust me, there WILL BE Makorra), and there isn't really gonna be a set length.

if you wanna keep updated on this, i try to post it as a WIP on my tumblr (also whisperedtouches), so if you wanna take a look at that, go for it, or if you don't, that's fine too. my stance on reviews is the same.

thanks for reading. see you in a couple days, i hope!

~whispered touches

disclaimer: these three and Republic City and bending and all that jazz belong to Nick and Bryke. i own nothing, no copyright infringement is intended.