Note: Written just for fun; no offense or antagonism intended.

The cacophony of chatter on the city's trolleys and trains had changed significantly in the past few weeks. Before the Avatar's arrival and Amon's Revelation, it had never been worth listening to. Now, a day couldn't pass without Mako hearing something he was unable to ignore: Equalists whispering about how the Avatar would regret ever coming to their city, Benders fearfully reassuring each other that the rumors about Amon's power couldn't possibly be true, men discussing if it would be safest to leave the city altogether, women speculating on what the Equalists' next move would be… little to hear that boded well for Benders, nothing useful, all foreboding.

Mako indulged in one discontented sigh as he boarded the trolley this afternoon, heading to the park to meet Asami. What would the reigning topic of choice be today? he wondered. Theories about how the Equalists were probably planning to crash the upcoming Pro-Bending tournament? More debates over just how true Amon's tragic life story really was? Guesses of how long it would take before the Equalists rid the city of the tyranny of Benders once and for all? It was a small comfort to learn he wouldn't have to sit through much of the latter today, once he realized he was surrounded mostly by Benders (this had become more and more common, of course, as the two groups of people began to separate more and more as the tension between them grew). He listened to a few comparisons of people's favorites in the Pro-Bending tournament and gradually began to tune out.

His attention flipped back on when he heard the name "Asami Sato." He turned his head slightly around and scanned the car until his eyes found the speaker ‒ one of four teenaged girls sitting close together two seats behind him. He didn't recognize them, but they all seemed to have features common among descendants of the Fire Nation... and among Republic City's upper class; were they friends of Asami's? Mako turned back around before they could see him staring at them but kept his ears alert to their conversation.

"You sound surprised," one said.

"I'm not; I always knew she was weird," said another.

"Come on, haven't you seen his picture in the papers?" said a third, whose tone, for some reason, he liked the least. "He may be a street rat, but he sure is handsome. Let her have her fun."

"But a Firebender?" someone said, in a tone of complete dismay.

"If my father ever caught me with a Bender, he'd ship me out of town faster than you could say 'Monkey feathers.' "

"My father'll never catch me with a Bender. You couldn't pay me to step within 100 feet of one."

"Not even at Amon's next show?" This caused everyone to snicker happily at the thought of getting to see firsthand what they'd heard about the Revelation.

"My brother once got caught making out with a Waterbender in the backyard. It wasn't pretty."

"When a family with an Earthbender daughter moved in next door to us last year, my mother had us all pack up and go to a hotel; we stayed for weeks until we found a new place."

"What is she thinking? Everyone knows you can't trust Benders."

"Maybe he's blackmailing her; isn't her father paying him a ton of money?"

"Nah, Asami's too tough to let someone mess with her like that. She must have some angle, but what?"

"You know what I heard?" This was a male voice, from slightly further away. Someone behind them must have also overheard and decided to join in.

If he shared what he heard, Mako couldn't hear it, at first. But a crowded trolley car wasn't the best place for whispering, so the new speaker was obligated to repeat it in a louder tone. "She's secretly a Firebender, and her father makes her hide it, to protect her."

His female audience giggled at this, before another male voice said smugly, "I told you that was ridiculous."

"This is no mystery, people," said the girl who first waved away her friends' confusion before. "You know what they say about Firebenders... although I can't believe it's worth putting a target on your back."

"What target?" the first male speaker asked.

"Well, the Equalists can't be too happy about the daughter of Future Industries' founder dating a Bender, can they?"

"Of course they are; they set it up," his friend replied.

"What are you talking about?" another girl asked.

"Isn't it obvious?" the second male speaker continued. "An incredibly beautiful girl literally crashes into the Avatar's teammate right after they infiltrate an Equalist rally. She's not a Bender, but she instantly starts being as nice as possible to a Bender, asks him out, does everything she can to show she likes him and to make him like her. That can only mean..."

"She's attracted to him?" one of the girls guessed.

"No, that that's what she wants him to think," the theorist explained, "because she's working undercover for the Equalists to get close to the Avatar through him."

His listeners oohed and aahed at this and began rambling more quietly but still too audibly about how devastated her targets would be when the truth became known, speculating about how she would probably start to develop genuine feelings for him before long and kill herself out of guilt and despair like the girl in that story, debating whether she had been with the Equalists from the beginning or if they approached her and successfully convinced her where her duty lay after she began dating the Avatar's friend, laughing at the dupe of a Firebender who was stupid enough to think a woman like Asami Sato could actually like him, and wondering if he would kill her or just give into the despair of a broken heart from which Avatar Korra would eventually rescue him.

Mako was almost in agony by the time they finally reached his stop; he didn't think he could last a second longer without bursting into laughter.

Mako struggled to maintain his composure as a waving and smiling Asami ran up to him, but the sudden look of confusion on her face told him he only partially succeeded. "What's wrong?" she asked.

"Nothing's wrong," he assured her as he out his arm around her shoulders. "I just had a very... amusing morning. How come you never told me you're secretly a spy for the Equalists?" She responded to his sarcastic question with a roll of the eyes and a brief laugh before saying, "You heard it, too, huh?" The same city delivered the same gossip to them both.

The couple exchanged notes as they walked amongst the falling brown and gold leaves around the pond. Asami praised the Equalists for making their ruse elaborate enough to include sending hate mail to their own undercover agent chastising her for her treachery. Mako asked her if she would thank Amon for him for getting his team their sponsor. Asami lamented in mock despair that all their plans were ruined now that such observant, discerning minds had exposed their plot. Mako finally had enough and wondered aloud, quite seriously, where people got such crazy ideas.

"I think I know where they got this one," Asami answered. "It's just like that story about Fire Lord Zuko."

"What story?" Mako asked her.

"Well," she explained, "you know how Zuko spent three years in exile when he was a teenager during the reign of Fire Lord Ozai?"


"Well, towards the end of that period, he spent a few weeks hiding as a refugee in the old Earth Kingdom capital Ba Sing Se, which, at the time, was under the control of the Dai Li."

"Whose job it was to make sure nobody knew about the Hundred Year War outside the city's walls. I've heard about them," said Mako.

Asami continued, with an amused grin, "Well, there's a story about an Earth Kingdom girl he met there who was attracted to him and asked him out. From what I've heard, quite a few people have assumed she must have been a secret agent for the Dai Li, sent to spy on the Firebender."

Mako shook his head in mock disappointment. "A man just can't trust any girl these days, can he?"

"Alas," Asami added extra melodramatically as she leaned closer against him, "some things never change."