Disclaimer: I do not own The Legend of Korra.
By Techno Skittles
After the whole Hiroshi incident, she began distancing herself from him. From all of them.
But mainly him.
Mako didn't really take notice of Korra's regular absence until a week had passed, and even then he thought nothing of it. He figured she was just training harder and focusing more on her Avatar duties now that whatever was between them was resolved for the time being. It didn't bother him. Besides, he was much too busy trying to adjust to life on Air Temple Island along with his younger brother and his distraught girlfriend. Taking care of them emotionally and physically consumed most of his time and he wasn't about to add someone else to his already full plate. So he let her be, figuring that she was tough enough to handle herself. As she had said on the airship as they were leaving Sato mansion, Asami needed him. Korra would be fine without him. She didn't need him.
Perhaps that was her reasoning behind her actions. She had convinced herself of that as well, and decided not to burden him.
He appreciated her respect for him and everything that he had going on at the moment and silently thanked her with his eyes every time he saw her for it. The first few times, she returned his gratitude with a warm smile or a quiet nod, but after some time, she just stared at him blankly before turning and walking away. Mako shrugged it off; she was busy and he had already thanked her so much. Her reaction couldn't have been too serious.
Over the next couple of days, he hardly saw Korra, but once again, he took it passively. It wasn't something to worry about, especially compared to his girlfriend who would wake up sobbing in the middle of the night, begging to see her father in her half-asleep state only to be reminded of the horrible things that had occurred underneath her house a few days back. Asami needed him. Not Korra.
More time passed, and Korra began distancing herself more. Whenever Bolin attempted conversation, she dismissed him with a claim of having to train or meditate before running off, more than likely going off to be alone. Mako couldn't stand the sight of Bolin looked so dejected each time she left him like that and directed his anger towards the waterbender. She could've been nicer, at least talk to him for a little while, right? What was the harm in talking for a few minutes? Surely training could wait.
He accepted she was the Avatar but he didn't think she had to be a jerk about it. She had her duties to the city and to the world, but couldn't she care for her friends enough to say just a few words to them? It may have been a tough time for her right now, but it was hard on them too. She could've offered them some comfort as a friend, just as they were trying to do for her.
One day he went to confront her about this and walked to her room.
He never made it past her door.
Inside he had heard a quiet sniffle and paused. Listening carefully, he heard more sniffles and came to the conclusion that Korra had to be crying. Of all people to be crying at this time – Asami, Bolin, him – he didn't quite expect their hard-headed friend to be the one getting emotional. A sob sounded out and startled him away, quickly walking back to his room and shutting the door.
Mako stood for a moment and hung his head in shame at what he had done.
He'd been criticizing her for abandoning them emotionally and not being there for support and he was the one who ran at the first sign of her turmoil. She was silently suffering on her own, not confiding in them with her problems because she knew they were dealing with their own at that time. Mako couldn't decide if it was a selfless act or just plain stupid.
After a minute he had gone back to her room and knocked on the door, planning to be there for her this time. To let her know that he was there for her too, not just his brother or Asami. Korra had told him that Asami needed Mako which, while true, only covered up the fact that she needed him too.
When no answer came, he slid open the lightweight door.
She wasn't there.
A week went by and Mako was starting to see Korra less and less with each passing day.
First she turned in early at night and disappeared off to her room until the late hours of the morning.
Then she started spending her afternoons in the city, training and doing small tasks for the police force, helping anyway she could.
Now she didn't even show up for breakfast, deciding to go off somewhere on the island to train or meditate.
The only times he saw her now was the in-betweens, after she meditated in the morning, after she returned from the city from her long day of running around, right before she traipsed off to her room to never been seen again until late morning – if he was lucky. It was worrisome and he began to talk in hushed whispers with Asami and Bolin about Korra's current state of being to find they agreed with him. None of them were sure of what had gotten into her and their guesses all sounded empty and too forgiving ("She's just more eager to help the city." "Maybe Tarrlok's on her again." "Tenzin probably told her that she'd have to start doing more." "She's probably just finally growing up and realizing what being the Avatar means.").
Once during their discussing they all heard a resonant thud and turned in time to see the front door still rattling as a depleted Korra wearily stared back at them with hazy eyes. All was quiet as the three guiltily stared at her for talking so carelessly about her behind her back like this and her eyes seemed to say the same as she watched all of their stricken faces. Her eyes wavered at them and Mako opened his mouth to greet her in an attempt to make the situation less awkward.
Her bottom lip trembled.
He considered it as a trick of the lighting.
But he closed his mouth anyway and watched deathly silent as his eyes followed her out of the room, not saying a word to any of them and vice versa. She disappeared from sight and Mako released a breath of air he wasn't quite aware he was holding and looked to his girlfriend and younger brother. Their eyes mirrored his – worry, guilt, and frustration.
They didn't see her anymore after that.
Korra seemed to have designed a schedule around theirs in order to avoid them as much as possible. At first Mako let it slide and allowed her to mope for a few days, even though it only continued to prove him to be a hypocrite who refused to push himself to comfort a friend in need. After the third day though, he grew tired of the childish way she was acting and decided to finally act.
One night, Asami and Bolin went off to bed and he didn't. He sat in the kitchen, staring intently down at the floor as he leaned against the wall, arms crossed and thoughts racing. It must've been hours that he stood there, planted in one spot, never moving, but it all seemed worth it when he heard the sliding of the kitchen door. After spending all day and night out in the city, stopping small-time criminals and random Equalists, Mako figured that Korra would come into the kitchen for a snack. He lifted his head and opened his mouth to confront the teenage Avatar but his argument died in his throat when he saw his brother sleepily walking in, yawning and rubbing his eye.
"Hey, Bro," he greeted. "You still haven't gone to bed?"
Mako sighed and pushed off the wall, running a gloved hand through his hair and shoving the other in his pocket. "I'm actually about to do that now." It was getting late and waiting for Korra to come home had proven to be a waste of time. He waved Bolin a good night and shuffled out of the kitchen, watching his feet as he traced the familiar path to his given room.
He didn't expect to collide with the very person he had stayed up for.
The force had knocked him unceremoniously on his ass, resulting in his sore bottom and his gruff reply, "Hey what do you think you're doing?" But once he looked up at the other figure, he instantly wished to take those words back. Korra sat on the floor across from him, rubbing her head, bags prominent underneath her eyes. She looked back at him with…hollow eyes and a flat expression. No emotion could be detected on her face and Mako wanted to shake her and snap in-between her eyes to bring her to her senses and yell at him for not watching where he was going and ask what he was doing up so late.
She only stared.
He stared right back.
Eventually she moved, but instead of standing up and continuing to her room like he had thought, she scooted away from him, wide-eyed with realization for her current situation. She backed away as if he were some disease that she didn't want to catch, making over-dramatic and panicked movements, jerking back when he shifted forward to say something. He began to frantically ask her what was wrong, why did she look so scared, why was she avoiding them, what was her problem, why was she backing away when he only wanted to talk.
She just kept backing away, putting more and more distance between them.
"Korra, please! We're all worried sick about you!"
She jumped from the floor and was already out the back door before her feet hit the ground. Mako was left sitting in the empty and dark hallway, wishing desperately that he knew how to fix his broken friend.
Five more days passed. No sign of Korra.
Mako finally decided that he was fed up with her behavior and verbalized his concerns with Tenzin. The master airbender only sighed and shook his head, saying that he had already talked to Korra – a privilege that Mako did not have – and that she stubbornly insisted on working herself to the bone in order to protect the city. Out of his pent up anger and frustration Mako accused Tenzin of not caring enough for Korra if he was just going to let her off that easy and stormed from the room, ignoring the choked gasp of shock that he sputtered. He slammed the door closed and turned the corner.
Korra was standing there.
It was a surprise; normally she'd be out in the city at this time, cruising in the police mobiles with the metalbenders, patrolling the streets. Instead she stood across from him, leaning against the wall, cerulean eyes looking vibrant even in the dim lighting. Mako skidded to a halt at the sight of her, heart thudding against his chest in fear that she would run from him again.
Neither did he.
They both stood there in a mutual quiet, studying the other after not being able to see each other for quite some time. The heavy bags under her eyes were still painfully obvious, betraying just how much sleep she's been getting these past few weeks. Her hair fell flat around her head, lacking the usual healthy luster that it had. She hadn't changed much, but to Mako it was just enough.
He tried at making conversation.
"I can't believe you're here."
She flicked her eyes at him briefly before deciding she'd rather look at her feet. She took a careful step back as if regretting their encounter but deciding it was too late to leave without seeming rude (how well-mannered of her). After realizing that just talking wasn't going to get anything out of her, Mako tentatively placed his hand on her shoulder. She jumped at his light tough but he brushed it off, refusing to flinch away. He ran from her once and he wasn't going to make that mistake again.
"Korra…" he trailed off, not knowing what to say to comfort her in this situation. That everything would be okay? How could he lie; how could he say something without a clue as to what was going on?
She sighed and shook her head, finally deciding that she couldn't handle this. He reached up to put his other hand on her other shoulder before she backed away and slipped from his grasp. Blue eyes rose to meet hot amber and she spoke to him for the first time in forever.
"I stopped being Korra a long time ago."
The next he saw her after that would be the last.
Their conversation had ended once she had told him that she was no longer Korra when she straightened up and walked away chin up, blinking back yearning tears. Mako had watched her leave once more, not knowing what to do anymore. Every time he encountered her lately, she always ran away from him, just as he had run from her that first time when she had been crying alone. It began to haunt his every thought and he started to blame himself for how she was acting. Korra was probably feeling alone and distraught because she had no one to lean on since she had given him up to Asami. Mako had allowed this because he felt awkward around her after everything they'd gone through – from the kiss to him threatening their friendship – and because he knew that his girlfriend needed him in such a stressful time.
But he was wrong about Korra. She had needed him too. She was just too stubborn and independent to admit it.
When she had begun to avoid them, he should have reeled her back in and showed her that he would always be around for her. He should have told her that they were all there for her whenever she needed them and that they'd all get through this whole mess together. If she ever felt stressed of overwhelmed she'd have a shoulder to cry on and someone to lean on.
As much as he hated to admit it, Mako knew that he was given plenty of chances to do so. He ignored them all, brushing it off as Korra being busier than usual or Korra just being strong enough to hold her own.
That night when he heard her crying inside her room was his last chance at helping her and he blew it by running away to his room like a coward.
Now, as he impatiently drummed his fingers on the car handle and frantically scanned the sidewalks for any sign of her, he regretted his impulsive decision more than ever.
"For the love of the spirits where did she run off to?"
Asami sighed wearily and side-glanced Mako who was grinding his teeth together in anxiety. She reached over and lightly tapped him on the chin and told him, "I'm sure she's probably around here somewhere, just trying to get some alone time to think."
Mako shook his head and bit down on his lip before turning to her with strained eyes as he tried to hold back tears. "No, Asami. She's been gone for three days. Three days. Korra wouldn't be away for that long just for time to think." He breathed out a shaky sigh and turned his eyes back to the road. "Something's wrong. Very, very wrong."
Bolin slumped into the seat in the back and Asami hung her head down as they continued to drive through the streets, looking turbulently for their missing companion. Buildings and unfamiliar faces whizzed by as the sun set on their large city with still no sign of the waterbender. Late into the night, they continued to look.
When Bolin's snores could be heard coming from the back and Asami felt her own eyes drooping dangerously, she turned to Mako, still eyeing the streets with the same intensity from before. "Mako," she croaked out with a tired voice. "Mako I think we should head back. It's really late and I can't keep driving for much longer."
"Then drop me off."
Asami blinked in surprise before stuttering out, "Wh-what?"
"I said drop me off. If you two are too tired I'll keep searching on foot."
The young heiress shook her head, lush hair flying everywhere when she did so. "No, Mako it's too dangerous to be out this late."
"And that's why I should definitely keep looking for her." He turned to her with a determined fire in his eyes, the only part of his face that had any light to it left. "So drop me off and you two go home while I keep looking."
"And I'll come home as soon as I find her."
Asami shut her mouth and hid the single tear that ran down her cheek – from what she did not know – and silently nodded, pulling over to let him off at the sidewalk. He hopped out of the car before it even pulled to a stop and shoved his hands in his pockets, turning to his girlfriend once last time before he departed. "I'll find her. I promise you."
"I believe you," she whispered. But she didn't have the heart to mention that if he did happen to find her he may not be happy with the results. "Just come home safe, okay?"
Asami winced before putting the car in gear, her eyes leaving his in favor of the road as she pulled out and headed for Air Temple Island. The wind dried the tears that ran down her face as she traced back the route she had taken and sucked in a shuddering breath.
"Don't come home to me broken and empty, Mako. I don't want to lose another person so close to me," she whispered to herself.
He found her, mangled and broken against an alley wall nodding her head on occasion like she was fighting off sleep. Alarm bells rang in his head as he immediately took action and ran to her faster than he'd ever run before, screaming her name at the top of his lungs. She only seemed to acknowledge him after the fourth time he called her, finally lifting her head up to see him running towards her at full speed. His name quietly spilled from her lips and she was thrown into a coughing fit, gasping for air by the time he kneeled down beside her.
"Korra! Oh no, Korra! What happened to you?"
She coughed and gasped for more air and had the dreadful feeling that she was quickly running out. Her breaths were dwindling in number but even now she had no need to cry. "I found Amon."
Mako stared at her in disbelief.
"It didn't exactly work out in my favor."
"No shit!" he exclaimed, unwinding his scarf from his neck and pressing it down on her largest wound – a deep, ragged gash in her thigh oozing out buckets of blood. He shivered as the metallic scent of blood filled his nostrils and pushed down the urge to vomit. He continued to shake violently as he watched the life drain from her, racking his brain desperately for a way to save her, to keep her with him in this lifetime.
"Korra, you need to fight through this, okay? I need you to be strong for me," he encouraged.
She shook her head weakly and rested it against the brick wall behind her, breathing in a large gulp of air. "No use," she argued. "No point."
"Of course there's a point! Korra you're dying!"
He watched her shrug carelessly and became upset that she had the gall to be so nonchalant about all of this and was about to lash out when she spoke quietly. "So what? I suck at being the Avatar anyway. Maybe the next one will do a better job."
"Don't talk like that!"
Korra didn't answer him and Mako eyed her carefully, sighing in relief when he noticed her chest was still moving, but just barely. The tears involuntarily spilled over and he cried and cried because this situation just felt so familiar and he couldn't bear it.
"Korra you can't leave me!" he begged but he didn't hear his voice. Instead it was the voice of his eight-year-old self, calling out to his parents through tears and fear, pleading with them to open their eyes and stop scaring him. He was no longer kneeling beside his friend but his father who was a motionless heap on the ground, the life burned right out of him. He was sprawled over his mother's still body, clinging to her dress as he sobbed into her neck, gagging on the smell of burnt flesh.
He lifted his eyes and more tears fell down his chin as Korra smiled weakly at him, the light dimming in her eyes. "Mako, I'm sorry. I didn't want you getting hurt; so I stayed away." She coughed once again and Mako tried his hardest to ignore the blood that came out and landed on his face and was running down her chin. "I just didn't want anyone else to have to go through pain for me anymore."
"Korra that's not true!"
She only smiled and closed her eyes as he frantically begged her to open them, screeching and shaking her even when he noticed that she was no longer breathing.
Finally he ceased to a stop, settling for crying over her dead body at the loss of yet another important person in his life. He gasped and sobbed, not caring how much he was against crying at this point.
She had distanced herself too far this time.