"If I die, I want you guys to do something for me," she said, voice level, eyes smoothly gazing from amber to green.
Mako instantly puffed out his chest, eyebrows sharply turning down, while Bolin's eyes widened with fear and he curled in on himself, both of their mouths open to protest. Korra brought one hand to each of the boys' shoulders, squeezing tightly and tensing her jaw. They knew that look, and it wasn't one that opened up any chance for argument, so they bit back their remarks.
"The next Avatar is going to be an earthbender," she said. "Probably a boy. You need to find him and make sure the White Lotus doesn't lock him up like they did to me, alright? You need to be his friends."
"You're not going to die," Mako snapped. He, of course, would take her premature will as some kind of deathwish and partially hate her for it.
Bolin nodded vigorously. "Yeah, we won't let that happen."
She drew in a slow, steady breath, the same cleansing kind Tenzin had taught her. It left her mouth a with a bit more force than usual, enough to disrupt the tattered ends of Mako's scarf and the stubborn curl against Bolin's forehead.
"Look, I know you don't want to have this conversation, but we have to. Avatar Aang had to do the same thing with his friends, and if they hadn't listened, I'd be...," she paused, and tried to think of a life without Katara. Her throat tightened and she shook her head to clear away the thought. "Growing up, my only friends were Master Katara and Naga. You can't let that happen to me again."
Mako started biting his bottom lip and looked away, while Bolin nervously cracked his fingers, still staring at her with that unwavering, childish gaze. She knew that they still didn't understand, didn't want to even think about how she was just one in a line of thousands of lives before her. Bolin, of course, saw her unending cycle of lives as optimistic, as interesting. Mako, on the other hand, hated it.
"But it won't be you," he said, voice mumbled as he refused to stop pulling at his lip.
Her eyes narrowed. "Some part of me will still be there, and I'm never really gone. Will you look at me?" she snapped.
He matched her eyes with a glare, and for the first time, Korra realized just how young he was. He was eighteen and his whole life was ahead of him, and he had no intention of dying any time soon, but the thought of death and mortality hung over his head constantly. He was scared. He was always scared, but he could never afford to be, so he fought back.
At least Bolin had no intentions of hiding his fear with anger. He placed his large hand on top of hers at his shoulder, all smooth, rounded calluses with thick, deep lines carving into his palms. Her attention flitted from Mako to him, and when she saw his eyes start to get watery, she felt pinpricks of tears build in her own.
"I'm just as scared as you are," she said, this time struggling to keep her voice clear, trying to give both brothers equal attention. "And I don't want to leave. But if I have to go before you two, I want to at least know somebody cares about me enough to find me in my next lifetime. Will you help me?"
Bolin broke into a wide, shaky grin. "Yeah, of course."
The fact that he answered so instantly, without even having to think about it, made her eyes brim with tears. As her face pulled into a wide grin, they started to spill, but they were just small enough that they curved and rested at the corners of her eyes. Nervously, she looked to Mako.
Somewhere between waiting for Bolin's answer, his posture had slacked and he mimicked his brother; sad and curled in on himself, eyes wide and finally accepting the fact that he was terrified of losing her. Without saying a word, he stood up, pulling an arm around Bolin's shoulders to follow him, enclosing the pair into a hug.
"I'll do it as long as it doesn't kill me first," he rasped into her hair.
Korra could feel Bolin's cheek, pressed against her own, pull into a smile. As she choked out a laugh and wrapped her arms around the brothers, all she could think was, I picked the right ones.