Mako wasn't built for patience. The fire in his heart ignited his veins at the slightest spark. It took everything he had to keep his foot still, his hand on his scarf and the other wrapped around Asami's cold shoulders. He knew Tarrlok too well, the disgusting way he pulled strings in this city, and just how unaware you were of whether or not the man or woman next you to was a person or a puppet. Tarrlok had this whole city in the palm of his hand, and when he wanted something done, all it took was a flick of his wrist or a twist of his finger—and it was done.
Mako knew how powerful Korra was, and that even without the rest of Team Avatar by her side, she could take on any number of Chi-blockers if the stakes were high enough. He had never doubted her abilities, but what he did worry about was how innocent she was. She had never had a chance to see the scum of the earth, to live among them, to understand how mighty of a man Tarrlok was to have fallen so far. She didn't know people like she knew bending, and that scared him.
"I wonder what Korra's up to." Bolin said, matter-of-factly, as if he were reading his brother's thoughts.
"Probably back at the Air Temple with Tenzin and the kids." Asami smiled, "Trying to figure out how to get us out of here in the morning."
Mako shook his head, knowing all too well how little Asami understood Korra or anything she did. He knew for a fact she would be lying in bed, mind reeling from the day's events. She would toss and turn, window open, wind blowing, and then she would shoot up like a bat out of hell. The spirit of a fire bender, when her fuse was burned straight through, there was no stopping what happened next. She must have jumped out of bed, grabbed Naga and gone for the first neck within reach, guns blazing.
He just hoped that neck didn't belong to Tarrlok.
"Mako, sweetie." Asami looked up to him, her voice hushed, "You're doing it again."
He looked down at her, "Doing what again?"
"Picking at your scarf, staring blankly ahead…" She sighed, "All the thing you do when you're thinking about Korra."
"What?" He pulled back from her a bit, unnaturally aware of his hand on his scarf, "I'm not thinking about Korra. I'm trying to figure out how to get us out of here."
"Mako, I'm not stupid, you know." She flipped her hair out of her eyes, "We're all just as worried about her as you are, but we're stuck in here and I'm sure she's fine—"
"You three are free to go." One of the guards said as he swiftly made his way down the row of cells, pulling out a small key and unlocking the door. "Councilman Tenzin phoned and asked if you would all meet him in the Council chamber."
"The council chamber? What for?" Mako asked.
The guard pulled the door back, leading them out into the hallway, "There's been some interesting news on the Avatar, but Councilman Tenzin said he would explain more when you arrived. He said to please move hastily."
Mako set off running down the row of cells before the guard could even finish his thought. There was something wrong, he could sense it in his bones. It was six in the morning, the sun was just beginning to peak over the bay. Korra wasn't a morning person at all, and if there was urgent business concerning her—it couldn't be good.
"Looks like you don't have to tell him twice." Asami said, nudging Bolin, "Come on Bolin, let's go."
"Tenzin!" Mako yelled, bursting through the doors of the council, "What happened? Is Korra—"
The chamber caught him by surprise. An entire wall of the second story had been blown out, the railing on the balcony gone. Chunks of the stone pillars lay in ruins along the floor, crushing several benches. An entire quarter of the floor was shattered like glass and along the far edge by the stairs, sat a very beaten down Tarrlok. Mako's heart leapt into his throat, what the hell happened here?
"Mako," Tarrlok shook his head, "I'm so sorry."
"You, don't talk to me." He growled, stepping towards Tenzin, "Tenzin, is Korra all right? The guard said something about interesting news on the Avatar."
Tenzin nodded solemnly, putting his hand on the young fire bender's shoulder, "Mako. Korra's gone missing."
"What!" Bolin yelled as he and Asami entered, "What do you mean missing? How do you lose the Avatar? She's not, like, a pen!"
"As I told Chief Saikhan and Tenzin, Korra came to my office late last night to negotiate your release. I, of course, tried to explain to her why it wasn't in my power to do so when the Equalists attacked. I tried to protect her but next thing I know I was knocked out. When I came to, the Equalists were gone, as was Korra."
"You're telling us that the Equalists have Korra?" Asami said, her voice hollow.
"We've mobilized the entire police force. Finding the Avatar is our primary initiative right now, nothing else." Tarrlok nodded, "I'm so sorry. I never wanted this to happen."
Mako's eyes widen as he finally looked over at the seemingly broken man in front of him, noticing the singes on his clothing, particularly the burn of an Equalist gauntlet along his right arm. "They attacked you?" He asked.
"Yes. They went for Korra but I stepped in front of her at the last minute. If I hadn't been knocked out maybe—" Tarrlok's voice slipped, "Maybe I could've stopped them from taking her."
"You never said there was any definite proof that they took Korra." Mako snapped back.
Tarrlok's eyes shot up, their icy blue chill running up and down Mako, "You're correct, I don't know for sure, but if they did—we don't have time to waste. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to be de-briefed and work on an attack plan."
Mako opened his mouth but Tenzin quickly took him by the shoulder and began to lead him and his friends out of the chamber, "Of course Tarrlok," Tenzin called back, "We'll reconvene later to discuss Korra's whereabouts. I should get these kids back to the island before they cause anymore trouble."
When they were out of the building Tenzin whispered under his breath, "These walls have ears, I'll explain everything when we arrive on the island."
"Tarrlok doesn't care about Korra's well-being. I know that as well as you all do." Tenzin sighed as he sipped his tea, "I have a hard time believing that it was the Equalists."
"That's not even the problem." Mako piped up, starling everyone sitting around the table considering he hadn't even let go of his breath since they had left the council. "I have a hard time believing after what happened yesterday, that Korra would just walk up to Tarrlok and have a civil conversation."
"Yeah, she was ready to rock slap him." Bolin smirked.
Tenzin's eyebrow rose, "So you believe that Korra went to Tarrlok's office with the intention of harming him?"
"Maybe not specifically to harm him, but I wouldn't be surprised if she went to try and use her own style of persuasion to get him to let us go. After what he's done and said to her, it's not like he doesn't deserve to get knocked around a little bit." Asami said, her eyes directly on Mako's hand clenching on the table.
"That's a very good point, Asami." Tenzin stroked his beard, "Korra is not known for her peaceful tendencies. She got incredibly sensitive when Tarrlok spoke to her the other day about how she was nothing more than a 'half-baked Avatar.' It's very possible she lost her temper with him."
"He called her a what?" Asami gasped, "That's insane. She's amazing."
"She's been very sensitive lately. I know that Korra has a rough exterior, but deep down I know she's struggling with much more than she allows others to see. I'm afraid she's rather down on her own abilities as a bender and as a person and that's really inhibiting her judgment as the Avatar, and hurting her as a person." Tenzin looked down, "And when she's hurt she does the only thing she knows how to do without a second thought—fight."
"That's it then." Bolin interjected, "She must have gone to convince him to let us go, and then when that didn't work she went after him."
"But Tarrlok's not powerful enough of a bender to defeat Korra." Mako tugged at his scarf, "She should have had him beat no problem, especially considering those giant holes in the wall, and the shattered floor."
"Not necessarily, Mako." Tenzin raised his hand, "There is a lot to Tarrlok that many do not understand, including myself. We do not know how fair of a fight this was."
"Who cares?" Asami cried out, "We should focus on finding Korra, not discussing whether or not Tarrlok is guilty or innocent! What if she's dead by now?"
Mako's breath caught in his throat, his hand pulling the red scarf over his lips before he even had a change to really process what she had just said. He looked over at Bolin, whose face was completely drained of all color. He knew for a fact that Korra wasn't dead. There was absolutely no way she was dead. That might not be the case a few days from now, if they not able to find her, but right now, he knows she's alive. Somewhere. Hurt, but still breathing.
"Korra's not dead." Bolin said, strangely serious, "No way."
"If Tarrlok is behind this, the last thing he'd do is kill the Avatar." Tarrlok assured them all, but eyes on Mako, "He'd just want her out of the way long enough for whatever he's scheming."
"Then where is he keeping her?" Asami asked, clearly frustrated. "It doesn't make any sense."
"I'll speak with Lin immediately. As the former Chief of Police, she has to know of any and all holding facilities within the area that could contain the Avatar." Tenzin stood slowly, smoothing out his clothing before looking back at his guests, "I recommended in the meantime that you all get some rest. I know it's hard to do considering the circumstances, but any rash actions on our part could hurt Korra worse."
"You're going out to find her." Asami whispered, leaning against the door to Mako's room in the air temple. His scarf was tied tightly around his neck, pulled over his mouth, as he looked back from the open window. He didn't know what to say to her.
"You're not the only one who wants her back, you know." She walked towards him, setting herself down on his bed, "She means a lot to all of us."
Mako just looked at her, not saying a word to defend himself. He knew why she was here, he knew that face. Asami wasn't just here to tell him how much she missed Korra, she was here to take how much he missed Korra and throw it back in his face, and he deserved it.
"Especially Bolin. He looks up to her so much; he's head over heels for her. It's so obvious. I can't imagine what kind of toll this is taking on him. I've never seen him as serious as I did earlier around the table." She sighed, "Poor Bolin."
"And then there's you Mako." Her eyes stayed on her hands, "Running out in the middle of the day, abandoning Bolin and I here, to save her. To be the hero. It's so like you."
"I'm not the hero type, Asami, you know that." He jumped him but she was quick to cut him off.
"Who are you kidding, Mako? We both know how wrong you are." She took a deep breath, "After everything we've been through these past couple weeks, with my father and with the Equalists, you've done nothing but hold me together. Mako, you wanted me to stay away from my father's workshop so you could get the answers that I needed. If that doesn't scream damsel in distress, I don't know what does."
"I just wanted you to be safe Asami."
"I know you did. I know you have nothing but good intentions, Mako. I can see it in your eyes, even though you never look me in the eye long enough. I see the way you care for Bolin, no matter what comes your way. You'd be stupid to think I didn't see the way you care for Korra, too." She smiled, "I guess I just don't understand. She's the Avatar. Of all the people in the world she's the last person who needs someone to protect her! She's got every element on her side; she's been trained for this Mako. She can handle herself. She's stronger than anyone I've ever met."
She wiped a tear from her eye, "But you're still here, running off the island against Tenzin's direct order to try and save her. Why, Mako? Why are you trying so hard to save her?"
"You're wrong Asami." Mako pulled the scarf from his mouth and stepped towards her, "I'm not going to save Korra. She doesn't need saving, she never has. She needs something else. Something more than that."
"Like you as her boyfriend?" Asami's eyebrows perked up.
"No," Mako shook his head, "Someone to fall back on. Asami, I've been so blind to everything, to what it is that Korra expects from us, what she needs from us, but I know now. She's scared Asami, scared out of her mind, and for some reason I thought that because she was the Avatar that she could figure out how to get through all this. Like she was born for this, but only half of her is. The Avatar in her knows how to deal with this better than all of us combined, but Korra. She's an entirely different story."
"I don't know what you mean, Mako."
"What I mean is that the Avatar doesn't need protecting, you're right." He pushed his hair back, "But Korra does. Not from Equalists or Amon, or even Tarrlok. You saw by the state of the council chamber today that she doesn't need anyone to defend her in a fight. What she needs is someone to protect her from herself, someone to be there when things get overwhelming. A hand in the darkness."
"So you're not interested in her romantically at all?" Asami asked.
Mako let out an exasperated sigh, "That's not what this is about Asami! Don't you understand that? Korra is my best friend—"
"And you know exactly what she needs." She nodded, "I totally get it Mako. I really do, but please don't sit here and tell me that you don't love her. I'm not that stupid."
"Asami." Mako walked forward boldly, taking her hands in his as he squatted down in front of her, his eyes fixated on hers, "I know we need to have this conversation, but please hold onto it until I get back. Let me get Korra back safely and then we can talk. You can even run me over with a Satomobile if you want, but the longer I stay here, the less chance we have of getting Korra back."
"She's a lucky girl, to have you." Asami let the tears roll from her eyes freely as she looked away from him, embarrassed.
"No, I'm the lucky one." He wiped the tear from her cheek, "I will never be able to repay her for all that she's done for Bo and I, but I'm sure going to try."
Mako kissed her gently on the forehead before pulling his scarf back up over his mouth and starting out the window. In the blink of an eye, he was gone, and Asami was left alone thinking about what had just transpired. She knew what he felt for Korra, she just didn't understand how deeply this Avatar had burrowed underneath his skin. She saw the way they fought, the way Korra didn't take any of Mako's brooding and he didn't take any of her stubbornness. Asami knew she should have kicked herself for being so blind, and not realizing it sooner.
Her and Mako were good for each other. He made her feel safe, happy, and loved. Even when the worst came knocking at their door, he held her hand and offered a shoulder when the tears she shed for her father threatened to drown them both. She was good for him too. She brought out the smile in him, the playfully romantic nature in him. She made him happy. They were safe and secure. Steady and flowing.
But Korra was different. Around her, Mako was a fuse and she was a match just waiting to be lit. She would set him so far over the edge; he didn't know how to make it back. The way they yelled, the way everything she didn't never seemed good enough for him. How she never lied to him, stood her ground and took what was coming. She was dangerous for him. Loving an Avatar couldn't have ever been easy, for anyone. Asami saw the toll it took on Mako, the way he'd look after seeing her beaten down from so many practices. The fear that made him lash out at her, and the exhaustion that made her lash right back.
But ever since she had known them, she saw Mako grow. His hard exterior slowly coming down and his strong and cunning nature breaking through. Asami wished she could take credit for it, but she knew it was all Korra's doing because she was changing too. The headstrong Avatar with nothing to lose suddenly learned how to put down the chunks of concrete in her grasp at the sound of Mako's voice.
Mako made Korra a better person, but she did the same for him.
And Asami understood, deep down in her heart, that it was okay to let go of him. She deserved more than to share him. She deserved someone who would make her better, someone who would allow her to grow into the skin she'd always wanted to grow into but never had the strength to.
She wasn't a damsel in distress. Not anymore.
"Going somewhere, are we?" Mako froze as he heard Tenzin's voice creep up behind him. Stupid air benders with their stupid light feet.
"Lin just phoned after looking through some records and it seems as if there's an old facility that's no longer in use right by the mountain pass." He looked down at Mako, who was hanging on his every word, "My guess is that Tarrlok might be keeping Korra there. I doubt she'll be left unguarded at any moment, so it's best if you do not venture out alone."
"With all due respect sir—"
"Stop arguing with the man and get on the boat, man!" Bolin yelled, his head popping up from the boat that was docked just behind them, "My woman beckons!"
"Listen to him, Mako." Asami walked over to the railing and smiled, "We haven't got all day you know. Korra needs you, now."
"Go, Mako." Tenzin smiled, "I will reconvene with Lin and we'll do a sweep of all the holding areas within the city. As soon as our sweep is finished we'll join you at the mountain pass. Please be careful."
"Of course, sir." Mako bowed before running towards the boat, knowing for once what it was he needed to do.
Don't you dare give up. Mako thought, just hang on there. I'm coming, Korra.
Korra's head shifted slowly as the aches that nested in her spine shot all the way up through her neck and down through her bound arms. Her throat was dry and hoarse, every time she breathed it felt like a thousand shards of glass scraping against her windpipe. The last thing she could remember was being thrown in the back of a Satomobile, but after trying to burn her way out, her body gave out instead. Then she found herself here, in this dark platinum room.
She felt hot tears sting her eyes as she tried to shift but the ropes skinned against her wounds. She couldn't bend, she couldn't move, and she could hardly keep her eyes open. She was stuck, absolutely stuck.
She couldn't save herself this time.
A/N: This is a two part story, and the second part should be up sometime later this afternoon! I intended it to be a one-shot but I got really absorbed in Mako and Asami's relationship so it went on longer than I anticipated! I hope you guys enjoy!
Reviews are absolutely lovely as well!