Disclaimer: I don't own Legend of Korra, but that's okay. The writers are doing a pretty good job!
Steam rose to the high ceiling of the Pro-bending arena's spacious gym. The young avatar panted slightly but a smile of victory quickly crossed her features. She remained perched on the toned abdomen of her firebending teammate after sufficiently defeating him in a one-on-one spar.
"Mako, why are you so warm?" she questioned, noting the incessant heat radiating his body. It had also been strangely easy to beat him today. After all, she lost these sparring sessions more often than she'd ever like to admit. Her proud expression folded into one of concern as she reached out to touch the side of his face.
"Firebender," he reminded, grabbing her wrist before her hand could make contact with the feverish skin. "Don't they teach you that in Avatar Studies 101?"
As intended, the condescending remark wiped all traces of the previous worry from her mind. Korra quickly stood and took brisk, purposeful strides to the other side of the room. Then she kicked out forcefully sending a barrage of water bullets his way. "They do, right after they teach us how to soak a sore loser!"
Mako sat up, steeling himself against the waves of shivering as the cold water seeped into his skin. He sneezed twice before resting his head in his hands, making Korra feel vaguely guilty about drenching him. Her aqua eyes softened momentarily as that reoccurring feeling of endearment seized her chest. Her cheeks flushed slightly, traitorous heart delighted at the thought of touching him intimately (and not with a water whip).
Contrary to popular belief the young avatar was quite capable of delicacy; she just had no time to cultivate her tenderness, and more importantly no one to disclose it to. She knew she had a responsibility to humanity like each incarnation that came before her, but this was something different. The seventeen year old had only willingly devoted herself to one person. Not that it mattered. Though they'd been acquainted for only a short time she knew Mako well. He wouldn't condescend to accept her help – unless it involved the safety of his younger brother – even if he were on his death bed. And that was fine, or at least the waterbender tried to convince herself so. If anyone in all of Republic City was capable of taking care of themselves, it was him.
Even if he was sick, Korra conceded, it was certainly not her job to dote on him. Especially not since the beautiful Asami Sato entered the picture. Apparently, the heiress could bat her eyelashes and make her father shell out thirty thousand Yuan for the Fire-Ferrets. If she couldn't manage to keep her boyfriend healthy…you get the picture. She was nice enough, but money can't buy everything. The thought of them together had Korra fuming.
"Where's Bolin?" she asked, eager to get her mind off the subject.
"What can't keep your hands off him for ten minutes? He's upstairs packing," he said testily. Since Mako and Asami started seeing each other, Korra found herself spending an ever increasing amount of time around Bolin. The earthbender made her laugh until silver tears rolled down her bronzed cheeks. They often went down to the dock to see which style of bending worked best for skipping stones. He kissed her a few times, and she allowed it, figuring at least someone should be happy around here. Mako walked in on them one of those times and his hostility on the subject soon followed. Naturally Korra was oblivious to the jealousy that fueled his rage.
"So you guys are coming?" she asked, feigning shock.
"Weren't we invited?" he asked, his face deadpan. With a headache throbbing behind his skull he was in no condition to try and decipher the avatar's moods. She was leaned against a wall and seemed to be scowling at nothing.
That evening they would leave for the South Pole to attend a meeting of the White Lotus. The topic of discussion would be the equalist revolution. As witnesses to Amon's power to take people's bending Mako and Bolin had been invited.
"You were. I just assumed Asami wouldn't let you go. I mean, how will she go on without her boy toy to dress up and drag around to galas and fancy restaurants?"
"Is there something you want to say?"
"No! But there's something you want me to say, and if you're holding your breath for it city-boy, you better learn air-bending and fast!" With that the avatar turned on her heel effortlessly as a dancer and stormed out of the gym, slamming the door behind her.
She heard "Korra, wait," before the door decisively collided with the metal frame. Seconds later there was a muffled fit of coughing from the other side that made something in Korra's stomach knot up.
She bolted out into the street and breathed in the city air, hoping it would replace the uneasy feelings inside her. She walked briskly down complex roads, most of which she didn't recognize, trying to find her way to the docks. The sun was setting fast, painting the sky a rustic orange and if they were to reach the Southern Water Tribe by midnight the boat would have to leave relatively soon.
When she had some semblance of where she was, Korra sat on the stoop on a small antique shop that was apparently closed for the weekend. She would wait there until the horn sounded on the boat telling her to hurry the hell up. As time elapsed, her traitorous mind wandered to thoughts of a certain fire-bender once again. She was worried about him. And she absolutely hated herself for it. Sustaining peace and balance in the universe; that was her job – not agonizing herself over a boy who did not want her. She cursed every tear that fell from her eyes and every sob that racked her body along with the person who caused it all.
Time and time again she reminded herself (grudgingly) that even if he was hacking his lungs out onto the pavement, Asami Sato would be the one to soothe him; if she was even allowed inside his bubble of stoicism. Spirits knew, better women than her have tried and failed to penetrate it. As the girl slowly drowned in her sad musings, she failed to notice the enemy closing in on her from all sides.
Mako sighed as he made his way down to the harbor. He felt like shit, but missing the boat was not an option. He could only shutter at the thought of the trouble Bolin could cause on an international level. The moody avatar was enough to sink the South Pole on her own. He observed a change in her temperament lately, and it wasn't for the better. Their argument (if it can be considered that) was strange. He could easily cite ten worse conflicts than that yet he'd never got such an emotional response from her. Like the time weathered mask of a Kyoshi Warrior, the avatar was breaking, and Mako couldn't help but feel responsible.
He noticed the first chi-blocker cut down an alleyway that was mostly used as a base for the Triple Threat Triads. Another bounded over rooftops coming from a different direction. Their presence could only signify one thing. Amon did not want the avatar to rendezvous with the White Lotus, for it would only hinder his plans. The masked reformer was finally feeling some of the fear he constantly inflicted, and Korra was in grave danger.
Equally enraged and terrified at the thought of what they would do if they caught her alone, Mako stealthily followed the chi-blockers to where his friend sat wiping tears from her eyes.
Through wet eyes, Korra assessed that something was amiss. The sun was tucked safely behind the horizon, but she caught a flash of eerie red light in her peripheral. She jumped backwards seconds before lightning rods were plunged into the stoop. While still in the air she froze her first aggressor solid.
Two more emerged behind her, ready to seal off her bending when a wall of fire descended upon them. Korra's face was a portrait of shock when she saw her savior, the boy in the red scarf. "Don't you pay attention to anything? They were probably tailing you since you left the gym!"
"I was paying attention. I always pay attention to what's right in front of me. The chi-blockers are a stealth force! Amon's cowards never come out and face you in the open!" She shouted. She was in his face now, tired of being overlooked, condescended. She would show him once and for all what she was made of.
"And that justifies you getting killed? You'll let them take you out because you don't like their fighting style! Korra, you have to be smarter! You need to asses a situation then make the right decision!" He was feeling dizzy now. Yelling at the avatar always took a lot out of him but not usually on this scale.
"Smarter? Like you? No thanks. I'll just be my idiot brute self, not dating rich girls for their money or dragging myself outside when I'm about to fall over. Something tells me I'll be better off." She started walking up the block towards the ship but turned around again.
"You know something I was about to thank you but-"
One last chi-blocker swooped down from the rooftops to attack the avatar but he got Mako instead. At the last second he moved in front of her, taking the concise blows. He shivered as his inner flame was extinguished before kicking the last assassin in the jaw, knocking him out.
Korra's eyes were as wide as two lagoons, her palms shaking as she assessed all that happened in the past few seconds. "Mako," she said softly, not unsure of the name, but of the meaning it held for her. He didn't answer. He was turned away from her, coughing quietly into his hands. She placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Are you okay?" she asked when the fit subsided. His eyes were watery and his cheeks faintly red. An amorous, sympathetic part of her longed to kiss him right then and there but luckily for her pride she didn't get the opportunity.
"Avatar Korra." A white lotus sentry arrived just then, looking self-important in his perfectly pressed uniform. "It is not safe here. Our informants say that there are chi-blockers in the area. Master Tenzin expressed that your safety is top priority."
"It's a little late for that," she said dryly, gesturing at all the unconscious bodies around them. The sentry scowled, and then continued speaking after composing himself.
"At any rate, the captain wishes to take off now. If you're done here…"
"I get it, we're coming," Korra said petulantly, crossing her arms over her ample chest. The sentry bowed respectfully before disappearing into the shadows. The teammates walked the short distance to the harbor in silence.
The steam ship was a grand spectacle, painted a midnight blue with water tribe symbols etched into the sides. Korra had barely set foot on the deck when she was escorted, rather forcefully to a spacious cabin on the third level. Pema was waiting there with a devilishly excited smirk on her face and her two daughters mimicked her expression.
"What's going on here?" Korra asked, eyebrows knotting together in suspicion.
"You're getting a makeover Korra!" Ikki said as she bounced on the bed, airbending to go even higher. Pema walked over and gently pulled out Korra's water tribe accessories letting her loose hair dangle past her shoulders.
"The girls and I thought you would like to make an impression upon coming home," she said. There were a lot more people in the Southern Water Tribes now than when Sokka and Katara were growing up. Though the avatar had more pressing things to think about, her mother figure wanted to make sure she wouldn't miss out on more basic parts of life.
"And we're gonna make you look pretty for your boyfriend!" Ikki exclaimed.
"The handsome firebender is here, isn't he?" Jinora asked. Pema smiled knowingly. Maybe Korra wasn't missing out on anything after all.
"There's a bath ready for you behind the folding screen." The woman nudged her lightly, careful of her baby bump. Korra sighed, exasperated as she slinked behind the screen. She knew there was no getting out of this and was definitely not opposed to luxuriating in warm water.
Two hours later, Korra was dressed in navy and cerulean kimono robes with a lavender sash. A white wolf fur wrap was draped elegantly over her shoulders and matching moccasin slippers slid onto her feet. Pema rouged her lips slightly, but otherwise left her free of makeup.
"Beautiful," she smiled.
"Korra looks like a girl!" Ikki exclaimed. "Mako is gonna be happy!" The mention of his name made the young avatar blush, though it barely showed against her copper skin. She looked at herself in the mirror, thinking it was an illusion. If she could look like this every day, then maybe she'd stand a chance against Asami.
"Something's missing," Jinora said. Pema scrutinized the young woman and came to the same conclusion.
"What should we do with her hair?"
"Loopies!" Ikki exclaimed. "Hair loopies like gran gran."
She nodded at her daughter. "I think you're right." When they were finished Korra's hair cascaded down her back, save for the two loops held in by clips. She thanked them all before leaving to explore the rest of the ship. She wasn't halfway down the hall when she ran into Bolin.
The earthbender stopped in his tracks, mouth hanging slightly open at the sight of her. "Korra! Wow, you look um…wow. D-did you do something different with your hair?" he tried to rein his cool back in before she noticed that she stopped him in his tracks.
"Yea actually I did. What have you been up to?"
Bolin smiled and puffed out his chest a little bit. "Mostly, I've just been talking with the guards. A lot of them are pretty big fans. Besides that, the buffet is awesome. And it's all free!"
Korra giggled. "Have fun basking in glory. Did you see Mako around?"
"Up on the deck. That was a while ago though." Korra nodded.
"Thanks Bo!" She started towards the staircase when Bolin took her hand. He pulled her back and pressed a kiss against her lips.
"See you in a few," he whispered into the crook of her neck before letting her go.
As she mounted the stairs Korra realized that though it wasn't monogamous Mako wasn't the only one with someone else.
She saw him, looking out at the onyx night sky and the icy water they were treading through. "Enjoying the scenery Mr. Hat trick?" she asked, making her presence known. He turned around and sucked in a breath as she walked forward. Under the glow of the full moon Korra looked like an incarnation of the moon spirit. He was half afraid that her beauty would fade into translucence if he took his eyes off her.
"Sure, I mean there's a bit too much cold and ice for my liking but it's nice."
Korra chuckled lightly, and then leaned on the railing next to him. She looked over his appearance and shook her head in dismay. "It's actually surprisingly warm out for the South Pole. Your problem is that you're underdressed. You Fire Nation spawn could manage to freeze during a heat wave."
This made Mako smirk at the irony. Even when she looked like a princess Korra was still…well Korra. "Discrimination from the mighty avatar, what would the press say?" he joked, but there was some truth to what she said. Quite frankly he was freezing his butt off, though he tried to suppress his shaking while she was looking. The effort was in vain.
Korra reached for his red scarf and wrapped it tighter around his neck. "You'll catch your death out here, if you're not careful." The words escaped her lips before her mind got a chance to filter them. It sounded like she cared, and she wasn't too keen on getting rejected again. She turned her face away in embarrassment.
"What are you so dolled up for anyway?" he asked, not too sure that he'd like the answer. He got territorial over her, more so than he cared to admit and the notion of her primping for another guy irritated him.
"I'm going home, Mako." She said wistfully her blue eyes filled to capacity with emotion as they grew closer to the wintery edges of her motherland. "There are so many people that I've been missing."
"What kind of people?" Mako asked, his suspicion growing with each passing moment.
Korra sighed contentedly. "Family, friends, teachers…I want to show them all that I've grown up and make a good impression. I need to prove that I'm worthy of continuing on Avatar Aang's legacy." This explanation almost quelled his worry, until the firebender's eyes fell upon the choker that adorned her neck.
"What is that?" he questioned. Agni, he hoped he was wrong.
"You've got a lot of questions tonight." She summed it all up to the sickness but decided to indulge him anyway. "It's a betrothal necklace, part of a water tribe custom."
"So it's real," he said emotionlessly.
Korra rolled her eyes at this. "Yes Mako, it's real. Asami isn't the only one who can have real jewelry."
"And it's yours," he confirmed, ignoring her attitude for the moment.
"Of course it's mine. It was given to me before I left for Republic City." A nostalgic smile reached the avatar's face as she bended small swirly patterns into the icy water below. This was all he needed to know on the subject, if not for the earlier encounter with the chi blockers, Mako would have blasted a hole through something by now.
"You're engaged! How could you do this to Bolin?" he snapped.
Korra had to stop her jaw from dropping as she realized what he had assumed. However, the situation presented an opportunity that she would fully exploit. "To Bolin?" she asked innocently.
"Yes! What kind of sick game are you playing here? Do you think it's cute to give a guy the run around when he'd do anything for you?" His head was spinning by now. He was sure that Bolin was his main concern, but picturing Korra in some other man's bed, waking up next to him every day, and having his kids made Mako's blood boil in a way that was entirely his own.
"You're too young to get married anyway."
"That's where you're wrong, tough guy. In the water tribes sixteen is the age when a girl can get married."
Mako paused and processed this. She could have been wedded a whole year before she even met him. "Sorry, I forget sometimes when you act like such a child. But seriously, how's Bolin gonna react to all this."
Korra sighed, sliding just a bit closer to the firebender. This joke had gone on long enough. "Well first he'd laugh his head off because Bolin knows that this betrothal necklace was my mothers and she gave it to me as a going away present. Then he'd ask why his brother was so interested in my affairs."
Intense amber eyes immobilized her. "That shit isn't funny."
"Really?" she asked playfully. "Because from where I'm standing it's pretty damn hilarious."
"That's because you-" Mako paused. Suddenly, his chest felt tight and each breath of arctic air burned at his raw throat. He turned away from her and started coughing violently, chest heaving with the effort. He was faintly aware at some point of Korra's hand frantically rubbing his back. The avatar was filled with indescribable relief when he finally stopped.
"You're getting worse city boy." Like before she found it near impossible to sift the concern out of her voice.
"I'm fine," he said hoarsely. It was a weak argument, even in his eyes.
"And that means so much coming from a pathological liar," she replied sardonically.
At this time a loud and annoying honk came from the steam ship. They had finally arrived in the Southern Water Tribes. Though nothing official was to take place until the morning quite a few spectators congregated to see the young avatar as well as Tenzin and his family.
"Go," Mako said, nodding towards the people lining the path to the compound. "They're waiting for you, avatar."
Korra looked at the ice palace that held her as a noble captive most of her life and cringed. After gaining freedom, she wouldn't go back there unless it was absolutely necessary. "They can wait a little while longer."
With that she climbed up onto the railing and somersaulted off, landing in a pile of snow. Sighing, Mako jumped the rail and followed her. The rest of the passengers going down the walkway didn't notice their unorthodox exit. He kept in stride with her as she led them away from the compound and into a village. "Where are we going?" he asked, though he was too exhausted to argue even if she were taking him to a cave full of hungry platypus bears.
She stopped in front of what had to be the biggest igloo he'd ever seen. "Home," she said as she opened the door. The close knit community of the southern water tribes made it unnecessary for people to lock their doors at night. They walked in to see a dimly lit living room that led to many other rooms. Korra removed her fur wrap and over robes and tossed them onto a leather chair.
Left in only a blue undershirt and white short Korra stretched before collapsing on the couch. Mako stood almost against the door almost entranced with the sight of her well toned legs. "Aren't you gonna talk to your parents?"
"They're not here," she said, foot hanging languidly over the back of the couch. "Actually, they're probably on their way to the compound. I wonder what's in the fridge."
"And why exactly aren't we at the compound? What about Bolin and Naga? They'll worry about you avatar." He sneezed at the end of his speech and sighed in resignation.
"Do you feel like dealing with all that protocol today? Bolin will be fine, and if anything Naga knows the way here." She pushed nestled her head further down into the cushions and closed her eyes for a minute. When she opened one and saw him still standing by the door, shivering every few seconds she sighed.
"Why don't you go lie down in my room? The bed is really soft and it's huge! You should rest."
"Korra," he started. "There's so much to do. We have to make our case to the White Lotus tomorrow – well in a few hours I guess. I have to revise the plays for the pro bending tournament…"
Korra rolled off the couch and stomped over to him, thanking the spirits that Pema gave her a pedicure. "There will be plenty of time to do all that when you're not half dead. You need to relax! Don't you think this obsessive stressing is how you got so sick in the first place? I mean, when was the last time you got a full night's sleep?"
At this time, Mako realized that there would be no debating with the avatar on this. He figured it wouldn't kill him to lie down until she fell asleep. Then he could get some work done. "Fine, you win. Show me the room."
She hadn't been kidding about the bed. It was colossal and softer than anything he ever came in contact with. Countless times when their living spaces only had one bed he slept on the floor to make sure his younger brother was comfortable.
Mako looked up to see the avatar still standing over the bed. She was biting her lip, almost nervously and her eyebrows were knitted together. He felt self-conscious, wondering how bad he had to look to make a girl who hated him half the time seem so perturbed. She'd done enough, too much in fact. Mako was the protector. Bolin and now Korra were his responsibility. If anything he should have been the one up all night taking care of her. This role reversal was ludicrous. All the same, half smothered in what he decided must have been the warmest fur blanket in the world, he could almost accept it. From her at least.
He shut his eyes tightly, trying to repress yet another wave of coughing. His swollen throat stung more and more with each wet rasp.
"Mako," Korra whispered. She was next to him on the bed now, rubbing his back in soothing circles. Before she knew what she was doing, her lips were pressed against his broad shoulder. "You have to get better," she said softly into his fabric of his shirt.
"Don't…worry about…me," he choked out.
"Shh." Korra kept massaging the area between his shoulder blades. "Don't talk. Just try to sleep." Her heart stopped racing as he started to drift off and she stayed beside him, acting as something between a guardian and an extra pillow. She wouldn't leave him like this for anything in the world, not even for sleep's embrace. This moment only cemented the fact that though on paper he belonged to Asami, Mako was hers in ways only the spirits could comprehend.
Korra's moment of realization was all but shattered by a knock on the door.
A/N: First LoK fic, actually my first in a while. I love the Makorra pairing and decided to take a swing at it. I can make this a two-shot. Most of what would be chapter two is already done (there's more fluff in that half), so let me know if you guys want the rest of it. Review please ^_^