dedication: there are too many of you. go away.
notes: I should probably stop poking my bruises if I want them to go away, but wtf, where do they even come from?!
notes2: AND THEN THE LORD SAID "AND LET THERE BE ANGST FIC TO BREAK THEIR HEARTS."
title: the abduction of psyche
summary: Like touching her face but he's wearing gloves. — Mako/Korra.
The Avatar State changed her.
Mako didn't know what to do with it. Nothing had changed Korra, before—she'd always been brash and loud and reckless, diving into situations that would have terrified any normal person. But then, she was the Avatar.
People expected that of her.
He couldn't quite put his finger on what had changed about her.
It was in the small violences, the empty chairs, the times when her gaze went hollow and she was suddenly looking somewhere very far away. It was in how she tipped her head back when it rained, like she was talking to the sky. And how she got lost sometimes, went wandering for hours, and Mako would find her at the edge of the city with her hands wrist-deep in withering foliage.
Her grin was missing its quirk, and she didn't look him in the eyes anymore.
(He remembers it like this:
Her back bows and her eyes have turned to shining blue-white pits and the wind is around her, rock and fire and water whirling a deadly hurricane. She's shaking three feet off the ground, fists clenched with blood on her knuckles and she's glowing.
And Mako suddenly understands that the whole world relies on Korra for balance, and that is not good. She is very, very unbalanced—.)
One foot in front of the other, Mako climbed the stairs up to the attic. Air Temple Island was a strange home, to be sure; for one thing, they weren't paying rent in what felt like the first time since forever. For another, he wasn't sharing a room.
But he was still up high.
Republic City looked different from here, he thought. Cleaner. It glittered with light and promise in the late-evening light with a silent, far-away sort of magic. From here, it was easy to forget the gang wars and the blood and the orphans living under cover of sewer grates.
From here, it was easy to forget that any of it had happened in the first place.
From here, it was easy to forget that the Avatar was a seventeen year old girl who wouldn't look him in the face.
Mako's palms clenched convulsively.
It wasn't his place to question her. Not now—maybe not ever. Not when she was wreathed in fire and water, dancing through the complex airbending steps, circular movements graceful and quick.
Not after he'd been so close to losing her, entire.
(He remembers it like this:
The ground underneath him shivers away from the waves of power that pour off her dusky shoulders. It is terrifying and for a minute Mako doesn't move because he thinks that if he does, she's going to obliterate him along with the Equalist leader and everything else in the vicinity.
But then he's stumbling towards her with his breath stuck in his throat, tripping over his own feet, and yelling "Korra! KORRA!"—)
He watched as she sent the boards spinning with another blast of air.
The sun sunk below the horizon, and Mako watched Korra dance.
Mako jumped a near foot.
Getting caught staring was something that no one ever expected.
"Are you gonna come down here and practise with me, or what?" she called up to him, laughing, arm flung high into the air.
"Yeah, yeah, gimme a minute," he grumbled.
The window was open. It was a simple thing to swing out and onto the roof. Scrabbling over the dark tile beneath his feet, then down the vined trellis along the wall to hit the ground. He barely made a sound.
"Always," Korra grinned. Her gaze was trained somewhere left of his ear.
It shouldn't have made him as irrationally angry as it did.
His fist came down flaming.
Her grin turned feral.
And then they fought.
It was by unspoken rule that they fought with fire and fire alone; she would have crushed him had she wanted to, but that was never what sparring was about.
Then again, Mako was running on fury, so maybe this wasn't what it was about, either.
They were both fighting for their lives, even if they didn't know it.
(He remembers it like this:
He can't get close.
The Avatar State's taken everything that he loves about this girl and twisted it—she turns her face towards him, light spilling out of her mouth.
For a minute, he almost thinks she recognizes him.
The blast that throws him backward tells him that she doesn't, though—)
They ended up pressed against the wall. Mako's arm above her head and his hand crushed against her abdomen would have him the winner, but Korra's hand curved around the back of his neck. They were both breathing hard through their noses, panting in the lavender-coloured dusk.
It was decidedly intimate. Too intimate.
Mako backed off.
"Tie, then?" Korra asked.
"Yeah," Mako managed on the exhale. He sighed from deep in his chest. The curve of her neck was still close enough to drop his forehead into, but there was still fire playing around the edges of her fingers. Somehow, Mako thought she wouldn't appreciate it. Too vulnerable, maybe.
"Cool," Korra murmured, and looked away.
Mako's jaw went tight. The rage was back.
"Why don't you look at me?" he asked through his teeth.
Korra froze. "I have no idea what you're talking about?"
"Yes, you do. You don't look me in the eye, anymore. What did the Avatars do to you, Korra? What did they do?"
She stared at the ground. "I—does it really matter?"
"Yeah, kinda," Mako said, voice tight.
"Mako. Stop. You don't wanna know."
"Actually, I really do."
She was silent for a moment. Then:
"They made me kill you," she murmured, eyes unfocused. "They made me kill you. And Bolin. And the kids. They made me kill you so many times…"
Mako didn't even know where to begin. The Avatar spirit was an ancient thing, cruel. He would never understand it. "That's—that's messed up. Why?"
"To teach me what I already knew. What Aang… never really learned. I guess."
She shook her head, gaze still very far away. He wondered if she was remembering killing everything she'd ever loved.
"That one life isn't worth the destruction of the whole world." She stopped and shuddered. "They made me break your fingers. Every one."
"Yes." A breath. "They wouldn't have let me out if I hadn't."
Mako's fingers dug tight into her shoulder.
"You okay?" he asked, then winced. "Wait, no, bad question—"
"No," Korra actually almost giggled, a little sound that broke at the end into jagged keen edges, sharp enough to cut skin. "No, I'm fine. Kiyoshi seemed to enjoy it, even. She would, though."
They both went quiet, then.
"You probably hate me, now," she said as she tilted her head back and ran her fingers through her bangs. "I mean, I hate me, so I'd understand."
"I don't," Mako said. "At all."
She looked so lonely right then, eyes big and tired and quietly empty. Like she was the slide of silk and blood under a Satomobile crash in slow motion. Like she was the only person left in the whole universe that stood a chance to fix things. Like she was the only person left willing to try.
Tired and quiet and empty were not things he ever wanted for her. They were not things that should ever have touched her.
Mako ached to slide his arms around her shoulders, if only to let her get some sleep.
Korra's lips quirked up. "Hey, don't give me that look. I'm okay. Really."
He didn't believe her for a second. No one who was okay carried hauntings on their shoulders the way Korra did. He reached forward to tuck her hair behind her ear.
Before he could touch her, she jerked out of his reach. She held up a hand to keep him from trying it again, biting at her lip so hard he thought she was going to make herself bleed.
(He didn't want that. Watching her bleed wasn't what this was about. That wasn't what this was about at all.)
"I'm just—you know what, I should go to bed. Need to be up early in the morning," she gulped. Her voice was a shade away from desperate, a shade away from terrified. "So I'm just—I'm just gonna go. Okay? Okay. See ya, Mako."
"Don't," she said. "Just don't."
She shuddered again, and turned to leave.
(He remembers it like this:
There's a flash of blue-white light, a half-scream shorn away; and Mako is reaching, reaching for her, arms out-stretched to catch her when the power finally drains away. And it will drain because Mako's heard the stories, and he understands. She trembles.
Amon is nowhere to be found.
A moment. Then:
Mako was left alone to stand and watch her walk away.
She didn't look back.