Notes: I really love food and the way Korra's maturing and I don't love the way Mako's been acting in regards to his friendship with Korra. So here's a fic that fixes that, because I'm too impatient to wait for it to play out this Saturday.
The bags strung up her arms dug into the scratches lining her skin, but Korra ignored it. The pain completely left her mind as she finally stepped foot on the dock to Air Temple Island, Tenzin walking with her. It had been a long day in the city: council meetings had to be attended, they saw Lin and helped formulate plans for reconstructing her metalbending team, and Korra received earthbending lessons from the ex-Chief. She was covered in a thin layer of dirt and sweat, smeared over her face as she tried to wipe the thicker droplets from her brow, and her stomach clawed with hunger. The pair of them had eaten in Lin's apartment in the city, but her food didn't amount to much. Lin prefered takeout, so the only thing in her icebox was a smattering of cold brown rice and tough meat.
Tenzin sighed heavily as they stepped onto the first of many staircases to walk up to the family's housing quarters.
"Do not bring the food into the house," he said sternly. "I don't want my children to be...tempted."
"Like your mother hasn't tried to slip them seal jerky before."
She snorted through her nose harshly, and the smile that pulled across her chapped lips stung. She knew deep down that Tenzin had probably eaten meat before, as a child, because as much as his mother was sensitive to the Air Nomads' beliefs, she was still from the Southern Water Tribe. A child being raised without a touch of meat was practically a sin, a sign of neglect.
When they reached the family's house, Korra nodded her head to Tenzin as goodbye and started walking around it. The sun was setting in front of her, the orange disk just settling behind the tallest trees and casting its warm glow all before her. Long purple shadows extended from the trees to the back side of the house, where her bedroom was. The large octagonal window was just short enough to reach her waist, and she cupped her hands around her eyes to peer inside, the bags on her arms shifting loudly and dragging down her forearms to bunch at the bend of her elbows.
Inside her bedroom, resting on the second bed dragged in there, was Asami. Korra knew her schedule by now, just as she knew everyone else's. When Korra returned from the city, Asami was always trying to catch some sleep, seeing as the pair of them were usually plagued by nightmares and stayed up half the night. Based on the puckering of her eyebrows, Korra could tell she wasn't really asleep.
She raised her fist and knocked on the window. Her friend jerked awake, green eyes wide with fear for a moment before spotting Korra. She smiled and laughed with relief, sliding off of the bed and reaching the window. Korra stepped back to allow the older girl to open it.
"Hey," she muttered quietly, before pressing her fingers gently to her eyelids so as to not disrupt the makeup there. "You look like hell."
"Hey," Korra laughed, and her right side stung with the motion. She held back a wince and finally decided that yes, her rib was probably cracked by the wire Lin snapped at her earlier. She shook her head to clear her mind, and continued to smile at her friend. "You like that seafood stir fry from Kuang's, right? Mako mentioned that it's your favorite?"
"Yeah, but why-oh, Korra."
Korra lifted one of the bags from her arms, peering inside to check for the red cardboard boxes sealed with the gold Kuang's logo. She held it out proudly to her stunned friend, taking the time to laugh openly at her despite the sting in her side. Asami's mouth had fallen open into a perfect circle, marred only by the smudge of lipstick at the corner of her mouth from where she had been resting her head on the pillow. Her hair was a wild mess and there were bags under her eyes, but her face completely transformed into the bright, happy girl she was before the war, before Korra had disrupted her life-all because of a bag of take out from a Fire Nation restaurant back in the city.
"So, it is your favorite?" Korra laughed again as Asami gingerly hooked her fingers around the handles of the bag.
Asami bit down on her lips and her eyelashes fluttered, her eyes starting to well slightly with tears. "You are so sweet. I can't believe you did this for me."
"Hey, it's nothing. I know you can't get it yourself, so, you know. It's nothing."
She shook her head and just as Korra had suspected, her hand started to go to her pockets for money. "No, honestly, this is too much, let me pay you ba-"
"No," Korra said, hand curling around the window with the threat to shut it. "Seriously. Just take it and eat it in here, because Tenzin doesn't want the kids to be tempted," she finished with a terrible imitation of her airbending master.
Asami giggled and pulled her hand away from her pocket. "Fine. But I owe you. This is so kind."
"You're welcome. Now eat it before it gets cold, I've got other deliveries to make," Korra said, lifting her arms with the two other bags dangling there.
"Alright. But if you find me passed out on the floor in a food coma when you get back, don't wake me."
Korra laughed again, and this time, she couldn't help but tense and press her hand to her side. "Deal."
Asami shut the window halfway and disappeared into the darkened room, letting Korra make her way to her next stop. As she continued on her way across the yard to the Acolyte's quarters, she heard the radio snap on in her room, blasting bright jazz music, the kind people danced to. It was a sure sign that Asami was happy.
Mako had mentioned once, in an offhand comment at dinner, that the only time Asami ate with her hands was when it came to that stir fry. He had never seen it, and she told him that he never would-it was far too embarrassing. Naturally, two days after that discussion, Korra convinced Asami to eat fish they had caught in the bay one night with their hands, after a particularly brutal dinner that consisted of hundred year old tofu that neither of them touched. When the older girl let it slip that the crab stir fry always reminded her of summers with her parents, when she was still young and couldn't handle the dexterity involved with prying the crab meat out of the hardened orange shells with special silver utensils, Korra's heart went out to her.
Though usually the butt of jokes, Water Tribe cuisine was important to the culture Korra was from. She remembered big dinners in her house as a child, stuffed with people from all over the village just to get a taste of her parents' cooking, knives scraping across the clay plates and glasses clinking together every few minutes as more and more people got drunk, and they found more and more things to loudly toast to each other. Food brought people together and carried memories and culture along with it. And adjusting to new food was always a challenge.
With this in mind, she walked to the window of the boys' shared bedroom, where Bolin could usually be found taping his hands in preparation for the earthbending lessons Korra would give him before dinner. He was the one who inspired her, after all, what with his love of Water Tribe cuisine.
The window was taller, just high enough for her to pop her head over, a small rectangle that shined against the setting sun. Korra squinted and didn't even bother to look inside. She rapped her knuckles against the window and tapped her foot on the ground as she waited. It didn't take long for the window to slide open, and Bolin's wide face was lit up both by the light and his own grin.
"Hey, is practice starting early?" he asked eagerly, all teeth and eyes sparkling through his eyelashes, eyes tensed against the sun.
She laughed and shook her head. "No, same time as always. I just got back from the city."
"Oh, alright. Why're you at the window?" he asked, and Pabu suddenly jumped to his shoulders and peered around his left ear, sniffing the air delicately.
Korra lifted her arm and the bag there slid down, but she ignored it and scratched Pabu behind the ears. "I got a gift for you."
Bolin brought his hands to the edge of the window, where one was tapped and the other was partially finished, the strip of white fabric tucked and spilling from between his index and middle fingers. He started bouncing up and down, eager for whatever she had brought him.
"Really? All the way in the city? You shouldn't have!"
"You don't even know what it is yet!" she laughed, but reached down to the bag on her left arm.
"So? I bet it's going to be great."
The second the twisted blue handles of the bag were visible, lifted up to the window ledge, Bolin started reaching out the window to grab it.
"No way, you did not-you did!" he gasped, grabbing the handles and lifting the bag, arms still shoved out the windows as he surveyed the tribal pattern on the side. "You got me noodles from Narook's?"
She laughed brightly and placed her hands over his, pushing them back to the window, inside the room. "Not just noodles. Look inside."
He stuffed the bag through the window and it disappeared into the room, along with most of his face as he ducked it to peer inside. All she could see, illuminated in warm light, was half of his face, just cut off at the nose. She watched as his green eyes widened as he looked inside the bag, and his rounded cheekbones were compacted with his smile and his eyes were nearly shut. He started bouncing again, the black curl that fell against his forehead moving along with him, catching the light and flipping from black to shining with each rise and fall.
He lifted his head and gave her the full view of his smile, wider than she had seen it in a long time, and it tugged at her heart to know that even if he smiled constantly, he still missed the city. This smile said that, said that he wanted to go back and live in the world he had always known, that his usual smiles were partially forced for the sake of his friends.
"Dumplings," he said, shaking his head in disbelief. "You got my favorite dumplings. They're all the way across town from Narook's! How did you-"
"-I've learned from Asami that a lady never tells," she said, winking.
He stared at her for a moment, dumbfounded, before the smile returned and he started laughing. His partially taped hand lifted to his eyes as he wiped at them, the fabric unraveling from his fingers. "Korra, you're the greatest."
"I know," she shrugged, and he laughed again. "Hey, just don't let anybody see you with meat around here, alright? Tenzin'll blast you off the Island."
"Can do," he said, saluting her, the tape dangling with the sharp jerk of his hand. "It'll only last about three seconds, anyway. Thanks, Korra."
"See you in an hour," she said, waving, and she started across the yard once more.
She heard half of Bolin's loud yell of excitement, no words needed to convey his happiness, just as the window slid shut behind her and cut off the sound. She knew he would sit on the floor, completely forget taping his hands for practice, and stuff his face until he would burst. Pabu would probably have the same fate, as she knew Bolin fed him the noodles as well.
Earthbending practice for the two of them, she knew, would be rescheduled until Bolin finally digested all the food and was free to move. She would still fire rocks at his stomach for fun, she decided with a smile.
Asami's music from her bedroom was still playing as she made her way to the middle of the yard, pausing to gaze at her surroundings. The sun was really setting now, nothing more than just a dull after glow surrounding the Island, and the shadows grew longer. There was still one bag on her arm and still one person to find, but the problem was, Mako hardly kept to as tight of a schedule as Asami and Bolin. Her foot tapped to the beat of the music-Hittin' on all Sixes, Asami had called it-and she waited.
A shriek of a laugh rose up from the West side of the Island, and she knew immediately where he was.
On the West side of the Island, facing out towards the vast ocean where the sun was just a curve of red above the horizon, was one large platform perfect for bending practice of any element. The sea breeze drove in, the water lapped at the cliff side, the sun was free to shine down with no trees to hide it, and the craggy rocks surrounded the flattened earth. She would only practice here when the distractions of the city and the looming figure of her predecessor were too much to bear.
At the top of the staircase she could watch Mako, the tallest and darkest figure move across the earth, surrounded by the three airbending children. It wasn't often that they could rope him into games, but when they did, they played for hours. Most of the games were made up on the spot and involved dragons, and Mako rarely heeded Tenzin's words of warning to not expose his children to too much firebending. Mako knew he was calm and cautious with his bending, and took comfort in the fact that he was good enough to control it and keep the children safe. He would grow bold and chase after the kids with fire spilling from his mouth, a roar clawing at the back of his throat that noone but the children were allowed to hear, and he was responsible.
Ikki begged for him to pro-bend, which apparently was another game. Seeing as airbenders were not involved with the sport, he helped them mimic old Fire Ferret formations and recount their past victories. He alone would be the opposing team, tossing weak flames towards them that always fizzled out before their winds could stop it.
This time, however, they asked for a demonstration, and he obliged. Having them sit on the sidelines, he threw punches and volleys and kicked his legs into the air, and while it was quick and impressive for a pro-bender, Korra now knew that it wasn't much use in the real world. With that thought in mind as she walked down the steps, the children clapping and cheering as the demonstration ended, she called his name.
"Oh, hey, Korra," he said a little quietly, rubbing at his neck. "Did you, uh..."
"Yeah, I saw you," she said, her smile tugging to the left.
He winced and glanced at the kids. They rushed off their seats and crowded around his legs, jumping and begging for more.
"Uh, no more, guys," he said, jerking his thumb back towards the water. "See? The sun's nearly gone and that's where I get all the fire from."
"Awwww," Ikki whined, tugging at the tail of his jacket. "But we wanted to play dragons some more!"
"You can still firebend at night," Jinora quipped.
He sighed and shook his head. "But I'm tired. And Pema-your mom wants you to clean up before dinner."
"Yeah, guys, scram," Korra said, nodding her head towards the stairs. "Or else you can't sit in on Bolin's earthbending lessons."
With that threat hanging over their heads, the three kids dutifully rushed up the stairs and disappeared. Korra watched them, smiling as they flew on the air and playfully shoved at each other in a race to the top. Her concentration was broken by Mako's awkward cough, and she turned to see him rubbing at his hair to fling droplets of sweat from it, nervously shifting his weight from foot to foot.
He had been avoiding her. For Asami's sake, of course, and while Korra still liked him, she didn't see why they couldn't be friends still. As her relationships with Bolin and Asami grew, the one between her and Mako weakened, and it mostly just annoyed her. She was fine with waiting for him to catch up to her, because at that point, he was just a confused mess of a teenaged boy stuck in the middle of a war, the Avatar's destiny, his troubled girlfriend, and his younger brother. And he was trying to simultaneously tackle it all and ignore it at the same time, never once asking for help or bothering to talk.
Really, she just wanted to help him and be his friend. He really wasn't the boyfriend she had been looking for at that point.
She lifted the brown paper bag in her hand and held it out to him. He stared at it, eyes wide with worry, and she sighed.
He wasn't going to make this easy.
"Bolin said you liked that squid hotpot from General Chu's, just outside the arena? Well, I got you some," she said, trying to keep her voice bright.
He frowned. "Just for me?"
"I got stuff for Asami and Bolin too," she replied, annoyance creeping up on her. Did he really think she was that desperate for his attention alone? She shook the bag. "Here."
He took it, spreading apart the handles to peer inside. "Uh...thanks." He gathered the handles together and squinted at her. "Did you just get back from the city?"
"Yeah, I know, Asami already said I look like hell," she laughed weakly, rubbing at the scratches on her arm. The sweat and salt on her palm made the cuts sting, but she welcomed the feeling. "Are you going to eat that?"
"We have dinner with the family in a bit, right?"
She shrugged. "Asami and Bolin are both eating their's. Don't worry about it."
He started biting at his bottom lip, his eyebrows knitting together and creasing the skin between them with two sharp lines, and he kept his eyes on the bag in his hands. She wanted to shake his shoulders and yell at him, it's just some food! I was trying to be nice, just don't over-think it, but she started picking at her scabs instead. She needed to exhibit some form of patience with him now, seeing as she knew better while he was still prone to fly off the handle.
He finally looked up at her, blinking rapidly before relaxing his tense shoulders. "Did you get anything for yourself?"
The question honestly caught her off guard. She hadn't given any thought to her own meal, as getting food was never a problem for her; people were always taking care of her. Pema would make dinner, and if Korra felt the need to skip out, there was always the bay. Her only goal for much of the day had been her duties, which she felt included making her friends happy despite the pain still pressing at her side that needed to be healed. Her own needs came later.
"Uh, no, I didn't," she admitted.
His lips quirked into an uneasy smile, and he stuck his hand into the bag, pulling out two pairs of chopsticks wrapped in paper. "Well, good thing this meal is made for two."
"What? No, that's for you, I can eat with the family," she said, shaking her head. "Besides, you can probably eat for five people alone."
He snorted and started ripping the wrapper off one of the chopsticks. "No, that's Bolin."
"Hey, I've seen you eat twenty vegetable dumplings in one sitting," she shot back playfully. "You're just as bad as him."
He shrugged and turned to walk towards the jagged rocks fencing in the platform, leading out towards the cliffside. "Those dumplings are good."
She still needed to talk to him, so she resigned to shuffle after him to the rocks. They sat down with their legs dangling over the edge, the two boxes of food lined up between them and settled on the paper bag. She watched as he opened the first box, eyes widening at the sight of tentacles twisted around tan noodles and speckled with fiery red pepper flakes. Stalks of wilted scallions popped up among the steaming, oily sauce, and the top was sprinkled with a dash of sesame seeds. He handed her a pair of chopsticks and she started to rub them together to free them of splinters, while he stuck his pair right into the mess of food and tossed it around.
"Why'd you buy us dinner?" he asked, popping open the second, smaller box. Inside were two steamed buns, and any other available space was dedicated to a jumble of hot sauce packets, a few of which tumbled out of the box due to lack of room. "And how'd you know I'd ask for extra hot sauce?"
She snorted and grabbed one of the buns, ripping it in half and watching the steam billow out of the center. "Bolin told me that you'd eat those alone. I figured I'd get a lot, just in case you wanted to stockpile them for other meals."
"You didn't answer the first question," he said. He stuck his chopsticks into the main meal and grabbed a packet. He shook it to move the sauce to one end before ripping it across the top. He tilted his head back and emptied the entire packet into his mouth, swallowing as if it were water. Instantly, he reached for another.
Trying to ignore the weird display before her, she shook her head and started eating the bun. "I figured you guys were homesick. Since, y'know. You can't really go back right now."
"This stuff isn't cheap."
She shrugged. "I still have money from our earlier wins. I don't really spend it on anything for myself anyway."
He picked up the main meal and started picking at it, selecting one cut of squid and eating it experimentally. Frowning at the lack of real fire, he set the box in his lap and started taking more packets of hot sauce and emptying them on to the food.
"You should've bought something for yourself," he muttered in between in concentration. Five whole packets of liquid fire were spread out over the top of the box, and he grabbed his chopsticks again to attack it, mixing it all together.
"Nah, I'm fine," she sighed, and stuffed the last half of the bun into her mouth. She watched him as he grabbed what looked like half of the meal between his chopsticks and shoveled it into his mouth. So much for sharing. "Uh, so, do you usually pro-bend with the kids?"
He snorted, biting down on the rest of the noodles and squid dangling from his mouth, and they fell back into the box. Chewing rapidly with his mouth peppered in red sauce that burned his skin in a way he thought was pleasant, he slowly answered.
"Well, the kids...it's not like-like I'm putting them-wait a minute." He paused, chewed, and swallowed before wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Korra vaguely wondered if he acted like this back at the Sato mansion. "It's not like I'm putting them up against any danger. I'm being safe."
"Oh, I know that, but earlier," she said, trying to find the right words so as to not offend him. "When you showed them how you usually bend. And, well...do you always bend like that?"
He frowned and shoved another mound of food into his mouth. "I don't know what you mean."
She decided to cut to the chase. Being cautious around him seemed to get her nowhere, and the way he ate his food after saying he would share it annoyed her. Sure, it had been a gift, but he dangled way too many things before her just to snatch them away: returning her affections (which she didn't fault him for), their friendship, and this was it. He was just kindling begging for a spark.
"You and Bolin are self taught, right?"
That was the golden combination of words, if the way he froze and his back tensed was any indication. His eyebrows drew together and he slowly sat up to straighten his back, eyes narrowing as he looked at her.
She held her face passive, but strong. She wouldn't succumb to his own ability to light a fire within her, even if he was asking for it.
"It shows," she stated.
He instantly drew in a large breath, ready to attack. "Well, some of us weren't lucky enough to-"
"-You're lucky enough now," she shot back. His mouth snapped shut and he tried to glare at her, but it was weakened with curiosity. For some reason, she finally felt as if she had really fought him with water, as it quelled the flames that licked his words. She slowly watched him relax under her unwavering gaze, and she gave in a deep sigh. "I'm already teaching Bolin traditional bending. I think I should teach you too."
"You don't have to."
She rolled her eyes. "You know what? Yes, I do, because it's my job to keep you guys safe."
He frowned, and he started stabbing his food with the chopsticks to let out his frustration, as her calm demeanor didn't fuel him like their usual arguments did. "It's always been my job to keep Bolin safe, and I've done fine without you."
"The Revelation," she said, and she saw it hit him like a knife. She kept herself cold from the way his eyes widened in fear, telling herself that she had to be this way, because it was the only way he'd listen. Fear was a language he understood. It was, after all, the reason he fought and learned bending the way he did in the first place."Argue it all you want, Mako, but the world's changing. There are some battles you're not supposed to fight. But I am."
His hand stilled, fingers slowly curling around the chopsticks and gripping them until his knuckles turned white. His bottom lip retreated into his mouth again to be attacked by his teeth, pulling at the dead skin there until it bled; a habit she had seen him show just after their first Equalist attack and before the championship game.
Finally, his eyes flickered away from her to stare down at his lap. "You say that like you have to do it alone," he muttered.
She wondered if this was another half-promise, something said and held before her until something more important came along to take precedent, leaving her alone and wanting. Without thinking about it, she grabbed one of the hot sauce packets, tore it open, and sucked the burning liquid into her mouth. While the fire danced on her tongue and clawed its way down her throat, it took her mind off of the real fire that wanted to spark in her palms.
"Are you saying you'll fight with me?" she asked, voice raw.
His gaze wavered between her and his lap. "Yeah, of course."
She shook her head and shut her eyes to keep them from watering in reaction to the hot sauce. "No."
"You can't do it alone."
She shrugged and opened her eyes, glaring at the water. The sun by now had set, leaving them in the cool blue haze of early night. A soft glow of pinks and oranges phased out over the horizon line like the soft embers of a dead fire. "Maybe not, but I'm the Avatar, and I think you forget that a lot."
This stilled him, froze him in place rather than springing forward with another answer or smartass quip to throw. He stared at her for a moment before nodding very slowly. "Yeah. Yeah, I guess I do. It's just-you're seventeen, Korra."
"Avatar Aang was a war hero at the age of 13," she said, returning her steady gaze to him. She was pleased to find that his eyes did not flicker away now, and his hand had relaxed around the chopsticks. "I'm going to be one at the age of seventeen. And you've been fighting for years against everything else in that city, so I know you're going to end up fighting this war, too. You're just not ready for this one yet, but I can help."
In his silence, he truly seemed to be considering her words in earnest. The last time she spoke to him of her duties, her job, he had accused her of behaving like a petty, average, teenaged girl seething with jealousy. This marked the first time he seemed to take her job seriously, really considered her to be knowledgeable, not just some girl who had a knack for getting on his nerves. She was the Avatar and she had given him so much, continued to give to him and his brother and girlfriend without asking for a single thing in return except for himself, and even that she had to give up for the sake of Asami's happiness and his own. Now she wanted to give him something he had been denied for his whole life, to tap into that part of him that burned and made him who he was, and he had the gall to question it.
He suddenly remembered the container of food in his hand, and guiltily handed it off to her. Her eyes widened in surprise but she gently took it from him, pulling at the chopsticks he had left there and picked at the food.
He cleared his throat, and decided to wing it with his apologies. It was far too late to really start them, but he couldn't waste another minute trying to form the words in his head. He had never felt so guilty in his life.
"Look," he said, shifting his body to turn towards her, giving her all his attention. "I know I'm not-stuff's still weird for me. This," he gestured between them, and Korra frowned as she ate. "Whatever it is. But, I guess, if you can-if you can get over it, then I should to, and-"
She lifted her finger, completely silencing him. Taking her time to chew her food, she swallowed, and lowered the finger down to point at him.
"This isn't about me liking you and you liking me. This is way more important than that," she said. "Start over."
She lifted another bundle of noodles and squid to her mouth, signaling the end of her half of the conversation. He quickly shook his head and sighed.
"Alright, fine," he started, but then shook his head a second time. "Actually, no, you know what? For me, that still matters. It is important. So I'm going to talk about it even if you don't want to."
He paused and waited for a response, but her mouth was so stuffed with food that all she could do was glare at him while she chewed. He took this as a moment of serendipity and decided to run with it while he could.
"It's weird to be around you and Asami at the same time, and yeah, I've been avoiding you," he admitted. "Which is stupid. I know that. So, I'm really glad that you decided to talk to me, and say-and say stuff I didn't want to hear. You're really the only one to ever do that to me, but this is really the first time I've listened."
"I noticed," she mumbled around the half-mouthful of food she was still working on.
He nodded. "I don't really know how to deal with you being Korra and the Avatar. For years, the Avatar was that guy," he raised his arm and pointed off to the north side of the Island. "And I've never even been to Memorial Island. I didn't really think I'd ever be friends with the Avatar."
Even though she chewed the last of her food and swallowed it, she stayed silent. It was slightly unnerving to see her eyes so calm and expectant, almost like those carved into the stony face of Avatar Aang he had just been gesturing to. He slowly dropped his arm to his side self consciously.
"So, I guess, I...I need your help," he finished quietly, forcefully keeping eye contact this time.
When his eyes didn't flicker away like a weakened flame, she allowed herself to hope that this was the makings of a promise he intended to keep. She stuck the chopsticks back into the container, handing it back to him. He silently took it without letting his eyes leave hers, waiting for a response.
Her face slowly lifted with a weak smile. "I can fit you in during the mornings before meditation, if you're ok with getting up at five thirty."
He nodded instantly. "That'd be great."
"Good. Firebending is at it's most powerful at dawn, and at noon."
He honestly hadn't known that. He ate some more of the hot pot, this time taking smaller bites. "Thanks."
"Thank me when you're a master firebender," she said with a laugh, leaning back on her hands. He caught her wince and shift her torso uncomfortably, and he finally took notice of the scratches on her forearms and the dirt layering her skin. It had become so normal for her to look so worn and battered what with all of her practices and training, that he never stopped to give it much attention.
There were bags under her eyes. The thin skin at her knuckles were shredded. The soft hairs gathering at the nape of her neck were stuck there with sweat.
And she still bothered to make time for him.
He shoved the food back at her, hastily wiping his mouth off with the back of his hand. "No, I've got to-thanks for joining the Fire Ferrets. And for helping me save Bolin. And for trying to protect the arena, and for not giving up on us, and for just-everything, really," he said. "Thanks for just, everything. Yeah. Everything sounds right."
She stared back at him, amused. Taking the box of food, she didn't eat from it, but set it back down on the space between them. He stared at her now nervously, but there was easiness in the way he slacked his posture to relax more in his seat. He was scared of her now for a completely different reason, one that did not involve a secret kiss between two normal teenagers, but because he was finally starting to understand who she was beyond that. She took it as a sign of maturity and was glad for it.
The left corner of the mouth tugged into a smile. "Well, you're welcome."