Mako leaned against the curved surface of the tunnel, ignoring the rough surfaces that pressed against his wounds. He looked into a world tinted in electrifying green; the tunnel glowed with an unnatural light and he could clearly see a small trail of water drip down from a pipe that ran along the tunnel's path. He fiddled with his newly acquired glove. It was only recently that he and his ranks were issued the new technologies—Hiroshi Sato had finally caught up with the production. Apparently, the multi-millionaire was having trouble keeping things secret from his family—a mere 19 year old girl.
Mako fought a snort at the thought.
The glove didn't fit quite right, in his opinion. His fingers were unusually slender and knobby, marred with slick scar tissues and chapped by winter winds. It was a bit bulky, his fingers swimming, the pads of his fingers barely brushing the edges of the material, but he was told that it was the case with most of the other equalists and chi-blockers.
Bored, he looked left and right before rolling the kinks out of his neck, getting into position. The tunnel remained dark as he lifted his gloved hand to the ceiling. His lip quirked and he watched as the glove sparked to life. The electricity jumped around, staying confined to the metals of the glove before he nudged a nearby pipe—the bright light shot crookedly in a semicircle around the tunnel's opening, giving an eerie entrance to their hideout. He immediately threw his hand down, looking down the tunnel once more—a faint light appeared in the center.
"Shit," he thought to himself.
Suddenly, an amused chuckle echoed from behind before he felt an unfamiliar touch to his shoulder. True to his training, he turned, twisting the intruder's arm and pinning him to the wall, lighting his glove ready for an attack. The chuckle grew louder as Mako registered the familiar green glow of his glasses.
"Relax," the Equalist said, the last part of his sentence strained as Mako pushed his chest a bit further into the wall. He never appreciated being snuck up on, even when it was someone of his own ranks. "Jeez, Mako, lighten up," he said, more irritated. The fizzle of the electricity left a static noise ringing in his ears as he let go of the man, giving him a rough push for good measure.
"What's up, Hajime." Mako tried to sound disinterested.
Hajime brushed off his chest, cocking his masked head to the approaching cart. "Lieutenant's got a job for you."
Mako glanced down the tunnel. "Lieutenant's always got a job for me," he reminded him, despite his piqued interest—he noticed a metal box about six feet tall.
He pointed, shifting his weight. "That, my brother, is not an ordinary bender."
"Bender? He wants me to guard another bender?"
"The Avatar, to be precise."
The cart came to a rushed stop at the station, leaving Mako to hurriedly leave his post on the edge of the tunnel. The Lieutenant grunted as he jumped off the cart, leaving the other two chi-blockers with the box.
"Got a job for you," He said to Mako, waving Hajime to leave. Mako heard grumbling from his brother, something about "Never getting the cool prisoners," before he hitched a ride with the other equalists, leaving Mako with the Lieutenant and the box.
The Lieutenant pounded roughly on the box. "Special package." He explained, emphasizing the "Special" part. "To be honest, I have no idea of Amon's intentions with her; all he said was to keep her quiet, keep her handicapped, and keep her quiet. Understood?"
Mako peered past his shoulder, glancing at the box. "Her?" He asked.
Liutentant sighed. "I shouldn't say, but it's all in fair warning, so I suppose…" He leaned forward. "The Avatar."
Mako swallowed discretely. "Avatar Korra, huh," he mused.
"Look, kid, He asked me to get a guard and you're one of the best. You've dealt with all the gang members—Shady Shin, Lightning Bolt Zolt…even all of Beifong's metalbenders." The Lieutenant wandered to the box, giving it a swift kick—not a sound came from inside. "But this is the highest prize we've had. Do not underestimate this girl." A funny look crossed his face. "Trust me."
Mako nodded in affirmation. "So the usual?"
"Yeah, yeah. Electrocute the damn thing every once in awhile. Keeping her unconscious is the safest way to keep her locked up." An empty cart came spurting down the tunnel. "Take her to west wing. I don't know how long it'll be—just radio if you need us." The lieutenant hopped aboard the cart. "And one more thing—"
He tossed a pair of kali sticks his way.
"Packs a hell of a lot more power than that damn glove. Figured you might need a pair." He gave him a two finger salute before driving away.
It was awkward balancing the pair of sticks in his gloved hand, but he did his best. Curious, he turned both on; the currents vibrated in his hands and the heat left faint warmth around him.
It still wasn't half the feeling he had long ago.
She blinked, her surroundings clouded. The first sensation she felt left her gritting her teeth and clenching her jaw. She wiggled, bound tightly in ropes and confirmed the worst.
That stupid kali-stick flailing sidekick of his had broken her damn hands.
It wasn't too bad, she noticed. She'd broken her hands before—she remembered the pain being a lot worse. It was back when she was twelve and she was starting her first day of Earthbending. She got a little too enthusiastic and tried reducing a boulder too big for her yet into pebbles.
Katara tried not to laugh as she mended her hands.
It didn't sting when she didn't move—but that wasn't going to be much help in an escape. She sat up slowly, her head spinning. Korra noticed she'd been tossed in a not-so-cozy box. There wasn't room for her to stretch more. She glanced up and looked at the squares that let in faint, synthetic light in. Her pupils were wide as she recognized the top of the ceiling.
She wiggled again, placing her foot to the side of the wall that encased her; she pounded the metal with a decent kick. "Hey," she said, her voice hoarse from not being used. She kicked again. "Hey! Let me out!"
Electricity and pain ripped through her veins before her world went dark again.
Mako sighed, leaning his head against the Avatar's cell. When she had fallen to the ground with a heavy thump, he slid to the floor, drawling one of his legs up to rest his arm lazily on his knee. He closed his eyes, tempted to sleep—she'd be out for at least another hour. Those kali-sticks, plus his glove, were not a healthy dose of electricity.
Then again, his lightning used to have a much stronger effect.
When he closed his eyes, he's flooded with memories he'd spent so long trying to repress. His father, broad-shouldered and tall, his mother, slender and sarcastic and his brother, the one person he promised to protect, now a fuzzy image of messy hair and bright green eyes.
He opened his eyes, suddenly aware of a headache.
Hours passed, and he went through the same routine; listen as she spat some dirty insult and then electrocute her until she went unconscious. A very small part of him felt guilty—he remembered watching Amon remove prisoners after he'd done as asked—they often had skin raw and red, covered in star patterned burns and bright white lines.
Mako remembered the same fire patterns that marred his parent's faces and couldn't help but wince.
"You won't get away with it." It was the most venomous her voice had sounded yet, scratched with pain and weariness. He looked to the other side of his room where the kali-sticks had rolled down after carelessly letting them fall from his grip. He was slow to get up, his feet sluggish as he walked to retrieve them.
Mako didn't feel the need to remind her of her dwindling physical state—taunting her could result in her anger trumping her pain; and he couldn't afford to have her best him with some trick. So instead, he went with a hard emotional slap to the heart.
"No one will find you in time." He said, leaning down to pick them up. He fired them up, appreciating the synthetic fire in the grip of his hands.
"You don't know them," she countered. He tried to drown her voice out by intensifying the voltage—too bad she was such a loud-mouth. "Bolin—he won't give up on me."
Mako turned the kali sticks off before running up to the box, his hands clamping loudly against the metal shell. Unknowingly to him, Korra flinched, expecting another electrocution, but was mildly surprised when she realized he had only banged on the wall. "Getting mad, are you?" She taunted, a smirk growing on her face.
Mako took a few steps back, inhaling and exhaling, and got a running start before he kicked the metal chamber so hard, the entire thing fell to the side.
"Ow, ow, ow!" Korra hissed, readjusting her position, she looked to her source of air and light, now to her left as she lay sideways in the box. She blew her frizzy hair out of her face before a masked equalist, complete with green glowing goggles, appeared in the grits of her cage.
"Who?" He snarled, the coldness of his voice now. He stared into her eyes, the inside of the box a dark green; her eyes appeared a bright green, and he had to look away.
Korra's expression matched that of his demand. "My friend, my teammate, Bolin! And Tahno, Tenzin and Lin, too."
Mako's face relaxed underneath his mask. "Bolin." He repeated, the word falling off his tongue as gently as water trickled down a stream. Confused, the Avatar quirked her brow, giving him a funny look.
"Yeah," she drawled.
She visibly tensed. Mako took her body language as a yes.
"Is he…well, is he okay?" Mako asked quietly.
Korra's eyes narrowed. "What the fuck is your deal?" She scooted closer, staring him hard in the goggles—trying to see past the glow and fear and into the apparent human eyes of her guard. "I don't have to tell you anything," she finally decided, puffing her bottom lip out with a pout. In an attempted grand gesture, she scooted away, struggling with her position that left her awkwardly on her side. She eventually managed, a bit dissatisfied, but turned away all the same.
Mako gripped the top of the cage tighter, his fingers wrapping awkwardly with his glove. He stared at the power source, small and round, and remembered the familiar blue glow. He sighed, and slid it off slowly, placing it on the ground. He looked to the Avatar—she hadn't noticed. Next, he took the kali sticks and dropped them with a clang!, watching as Korra flinched from the sound. She whipped her head around, her face a picture of awe and confusion.
His chest heaved and he realized he had never been so nervous.
"How is he?" He asked again, softer.
Korra scooted closer towards him, peeking her head left and right to see who else was around—they were completely alone. She looked back toward the equalist and Mako sucked in a breath as she studied him over. Her head cocked a bit to the side as her eyes ran over his masked face, still clearly confused. With an audible sigh, Mako got up and ran down the hall, looking left and right—the closest guard was at the next station, hundreds of yards away. He ran back to Korra, and saw she had leaned her head back against the metal, waiting. With another sigh Mako ran his fingers along the bottom of his mask, hesitating at first, before slowly yanking the whole thing off.
He stared, expectant. It was a common reaction. He kept a stoic face as Korra's wide eyes looked him up and down, ignoring how her eyes were a pretty blue. She opened and reopened her mouth, struggling to find the words, so Mako did it for her.
"Firebender." He said simply, reaching his hand up to trace the large scar that ran from the bottom of his left cheek down the side of his neck.
Korra nodded, understanding. Her own thigh had a similar mark from when she was learning the trade herself. But she figured their matching scars were not given under the same circumstances.
Silence enveloped them and Mako slid down to the ground, his back against the corner of her fallen metal cage. She could see half his body and a clear view of his scar, the only thing lit as the rest of him was a shadow from the lack of light in the tunnel. She blew out a ragged breath and took another one for courage, because surely she was crazy.
"He's fine." She finally said, a smile betraying her poker face from the mere memories that came back. Bolin had that effect on people.
Mako turned his head, pleased. Korra watched as dulled amber went wide with emotion. "Well, what does he do?"
Korra wouldn't lie—it was amusing to watch this equalist get so riled up about Bolin. Strange, of course, but also amusing. His whole "tough-guy" demeanor went crumbling to the ground. He had literally pulled the mask off just at the mention of her teammate's name. "He's a probender. Captain, actually. Of the Fire Ferrets."
Mako nodded, his face a clear indication for her to continue.
Hesitantly, she mentally agreed. She shifted her weight, trying to adjust her broken hands so they wouldn't throb as much. "He's an earthbender—you're right. And um, I was on the same team with him. We had a waterbender on our team named Tahno. Which made me the firebender."
Mako nodded, inching closer. Korra bit the inside of her cheek.
"We're in the running for the championship?" She supplied, scooting back. Mako ran his eyes over her.
Korra shrugged. "What else do you want to know?" Her confusion sunk back into disgust. "I'm not giving you anything that'll get him captured."
"I would never." Mako quipped in. Regret sinks in instantly and he closed his eyes, refusing to look at her.
Korra scoots even closer, his face almost touching the metal bars of the side. "And what does that mean?" She asked hurriedly. "Because last time I checked, you've been electrocuting me the past 12 hours, letting me sit on my own broken hands," she barked, baring her teeth in a snarl. "Catching benders is kind of your thing."
Mako didn't respond.
"Tui and La," she grumbled under her breath, letting her head fall back with a clunk. The silence came rushing back, echoing in their ears.
Mako listened as she wiggled and fidgeted—he supposed the Avatar wasn't used to being so still and confined before. "Stop wiggling or I'll electrocute the box," he finally warned.
That made her freeze. "Why haven't you?" She whispered. Mako turned his head completely, looking at her. He ran his eyes over, counting all her scratches, all the cracks in her chapped lips, the wrinkles in her forehead as she gazed at him with curiosity.
"I don't know," he finally answered, turning back around.
Korra rolled her eyes. "That's a load of bison shit if I've ever heard it. Come on, out with it."
Mako tensed. "Quiet, Korra."
Her mouth fell open in shock. "What did you just call me?"
He faced her yet again, a disinterested façade masking his rapid heartbeat. "Korra; that's your name, isn't it?"
She nodded dumbly. "Well, yeah." A familiar sparkle in his eye distracted her from a witty comeback. She watched as Mako just shrugged.
"It's not like you're going to be able to hold on to the Avatar title for much longer anyhow."
That one hit her like a punch in the gut. The worry and fear she once harbored came rushing back, igniting an uncomfortable fire in the pit of her belly. Her broken palms grew sweaty and the skin on her dirty forehead began to glisten.
She inched closer to him close as possible; her body presses uncomfortably against the bars. She needed his full attention, but he was a shadow once more; cloaked in rebel uniform and darkness. Pain wracked her body as she tried to free her hands; she settled with blowing air on the nape of his neck—he didn't even jump.
"Hey," she whispered. Still nothing. She blew again. "Hey."
She shrugged off his coldness; it was just a wall, and she had already witnessed some of it crumble at the mention of Bolin. She was determined to pick and prod until she got some answers. "I don't understand."
Mako sighed. "What?"
"Why are you doing this?"
He eyed her incredulously before picking up his discarded his goggles, waving them childishly in her face. "It's my job?"
She rolled her eyes. "I get that but," She paused. "Why are you an equalist?"
He groaned, looking down the tunnel before readjusting his position so he was facing her. "Typical; you think you have me pegged."
A cocky grin appeared on her face. "Kinda. I've dealt with my fair share of equalists—you're not exactly the cookie-cutter example they usually turn out to be."
He was a bit offended. "Why am I any different?"
"For one thing, you're talking to me. That's probably No-No number one."
Damn, he thought. He shifted, clearly uncomfortable and frustrated. He refused to look into her eyes—those pools of serene blue, picture perfect of Yue bay on a sunny day. "Spirits, you benders are all the same," he grumbled. "You just don't understand."
"So help me. I really want to know."
He threw his hands up, exasperated. "Have you not been paying attention this whole revolution?"
"Of course I have!" She fought, anger bubbling inside her. "I just want to know why you guys hate bending so much; why you specifically. I want to help."
He gritted his teeth. "You're a bender! Why on earth would you ever help us?"
He watched as her face contorted with sadness and regret. "I'm your Avatar too!" She finally cried out, her eyes brewing rainstorms. An odd hiccup echoes through the chamber. "Spirits, why don't you get that?" she whispered to the air. "I'm your Avatar, too."
Mako's jaw went a bit slack. He watched as The Avatar curled into herself, contorting her body to keep her hands out of harm. Her back was to him and he stared at the finely tone muscles and bugled and shook with her agony and pain. He opened his mouth to say something but stopped himself; he only continued to watch as her movements slowed and her breathing became steady as she fell asleep. Mako looked to the discarded goggles and gloves before placing them in his lap, leaning back against her cell and falling asleep as well.
"Oh my spirits!"
Mako was jolted awake with a rough slap to the face. He stared up and waited for his eyes to adjust before he recognizes the familiar pose of his fellow brother.
"Dude, if the Lieutenant spotted you asleep, you'd be electrocuted, no doubt." Despite his chastising, he sensed the amusement in his tone
Mako rubbed the sleep from his eyes. "What do you want, Hajime," he asked bored. He pretended not to jump when Hajime reached down, took his mask and smacked it in his face.
"Put that back on, you idiot; you can't just go around sharing your face to the Avatar." He studied the newly positioned box. "Have a little…trouble?" He asked, noticing how it was on its side.
"Nothing I couldn't handle," He answered quickly, voice like ice. Hajime shrugged.
"Not gonna doubt the pro." He waved his hand about. "Anyway, I was just told to check up on things," he glanced in her cell, nodding with approval. "Looks like she's out cold." A chuckle escaped him, and Mako looked to him puzzled. "Such a shame—she's kinda hot."
Mako hit him in the shoulder with his un-electrified kali stick. "Shut up."
"Aw, come on!"
From his place on the ground, Mako kicked Hajime in the bum. "Alright, that's quite enough."
Hajime chuckled as he jumped aboard the cart Mako hadn't noticed pulled into the station. "Whatever; but I mean what I said: put that mask on!" He gave him a two fingered salute before rushing down the tunnel.
Mako grumbled to himself, playing with the goggles and mask in his hands. He was pulled from his internal rant when he felt a brush of air tickle his ear.
"So." Korra chimed, weariness tainting her voice.
"So?" He challenged.
"You think I'm hot, huh?"
A blush bloomed on his cheeks and he was happy that the underground tunnel was dark enough to hide it. Apparently, he wasn't the best liar and he had to admit the Avatar was pretty. He kept his back to her. "Were you awake the whole time?" He asked, ignoring the question.
"Long enough. I was wrong—maybe you equalists aren't all the same after all; that Hajime's pretty loud."
Mako fought a chuckle, placing his mask back on, but pulling it down to wrap around his neck. The goggles rested comfortable on the top of his head. "See, we're not all so bad." He murmured.
The previous conversation came to haunt them both. The realization struck them both silent, leaving them to shuffle awkwardly and pick at their clothing. Finally, Mako heard Korra sigh.
"I meant what I said." She mumbled, staring at his back in hopes that he would turn around. "I'm here to help everyone. But I can't do that unless I get both sides—you know?"
Mako fiddled with his goggles on his head before he shifted his position, sitting in front of her with his legs crossed. He stared at her, studying her intensely. He watched as she chewed on the side of her lip in anticipation. Her hair was spun wildly, bursting from their hair ties. Her nose was scratched up and covered in grime and those eyes-those damn eyes that would catch him in such a trance with their alluring tranquility, bold color and familiar sparkle. She held a lot of emotions in those eyes and the worst part was, if they were green, he'd be staring right into his brother's eyes.
It scared him. But at the same time, he couldn't help but grow attached.
He picked the goggles from his head. He ran his fingers underneath the surfaces, watching as his nails tinted bright green. Green. As an equalist, it was everywhere and it only reminded him of his brother more. But that color, on those eyes…that's why he took the mask off. Spirits, he couldn't take it.
He stared at the goggles, ignoring her scrutinizing gaze. "I couldn't tell you when I joined Amon—it was a long time ago. There were equalists training long before Republic City knew of them. But anyway, After the murder of my parents and living on the streets, Amon's revolution gave hope to people like me, you know?" He shrugged.
Korra squinted her eyes, watching as he played with the goggles in his hands. "That's not it, is it?" She whispered. To her surprise, he looked up, a playful smile on his lips.
"That Avatar intuition, huh?" She returns the smile.
"Something like that." He watched as she wiggled once again, only this time successfully tucking and twisting so she could bring her bound hands from behind her. Throbbing in pain, she stuck her slender fingers in between the spaces; she managed to wiggle her fingers. "Hey, look at me." She demanded. Mako hesitated but did as she asked and tried to ignore the way she looked at him.
Korra scanned his eyes, getting lost in their color; a beautiful golden honey, sparks of something long gone still remaining.
"What happened with Bolin?" she whispered. Despite his hunch, Mako winced, his eyes crinkling in dissatisfaction.
He brought his mask up momentarily, covering his mouth briefly, before lowering it again. "I was eight when my parents were murdered by a firebender. A firebender." He spat, and Korra tilted her head, curious.
"Bolin's parents were killed by firebenders." Korra commented.
"I know. He was six."
Korra's mouth fell open. She stumbled into the back of her cage in shock, her hands getting caught in the bars, eliciting a small yelp from her due to the pain. Mako just went back to staring at the ground. Words caught in her throat as she fumbled to find something to say. "No, but—No, Bolin's brother was a bender you can't—"
"…Mako?" Korra whispered in disbelief and suddenly she was back to the edge of the chamber, her hands dangling crookedly, the bones not properly aligned. "You can't be! Are you?"
He whipped his head up, a sad smile on his face before he nodded slowly.
Korra sputtered. "What-I can't even—there's—explain! Please!"
Mako brought a finger to his lips. "Shh, calm down," he grunted, trying to regain some of his serious composure; it wasn't working too well. He readjusted his posture, his back erect, before he looked down the tunnel once again. He finally leaned forward and said quietly, "Yeah, I'm Mako."
Korra shook her head. "That doesn't make sense. No, not unless…" A smile broke through on her face. "Are you a spy?" She asked excitedly. Her wrists bang against the metal as she bobbles with glee. "A firebender amongst the equalists! Man did I have you—"
"No!" He growled, tempted to grab her by her broken hands. "Stop it! I'm not a firebender!"
Korra furrowed her brow, skeptical. "But Bolin said his brother was a firebender and—"
"That was taken from me a long time ago, okay?" he screeched and he clamped his hand over his mouth, Biting his thumb. He took a few breaths, reminiscent of his firebending training long ago, but it did little to calm him in the same way, to comfort him like it used to. "Like I said—Amon was doing equalist stuff long before Republic City knew."
Korra wore a look of complete and utter horrification. Her mouth parted with a frown and her face scrunched with worry. "When?" She asked.
"When what?" He spat.
"When did Amon take your bending?"
Mako sighed. "I was around 14, I think. That's when I lost track of Bolin. I was doing some…" he hesitated with the confession. "Work with the Triads, trying to get some money to help me and Bolin out, but…" He threw the goggles to the ground. "Didn't really work out in our favor. We were lured into a trap, kidnapped and taken to a secret location. I don't remember much but…he took our bending." He groaned, the memories unpleasant. "I managed to escape. I was going to run to City Hall, tell everyone what was going on but then…" He stopped.
"Then what?" Korra asked, practically standing in her cell.
"Amon caught up with me. He gave me a choice. If I tried to run, I would be killed. But If I stayed, he'd offer me a spot to fight for equality. He gave me a chance to see the light."
Mako threw Korra a cold stare.
"And I did," he said simply.
She felt so close, her heavy breathing so precise it was almost like a song. Her face captured many emotions as she struggled to deal with the information she had been given. But after she closed her and took a few deep breaths she opened her eyes and smiled sadly.
"That makes sense." She nodded, approving her own words.
A bit shocked, he said, "Are you, the Avatar, condoning my actions?"
"No," She rectified, "But I get it. Amon gave you a home, gave you a reason to change sides." A frown briefly fanned over her face. "Although, I feel your forgetting the part where he took your bending away," she grumbled. "I guess, in a weird way, that equality gave you hope. Is that right?"
Mako nodded, appreciating her odd understanding. "Firebenders killed my parents. A couple of Earthbenders beat the shit out of Bo and me when were on the streets, and once we were almost killed by The Red Monsoons when we accidently stepped in their territory. I once thought that I alone could help unbalance the bad that benders did but—it would never be enough. Benders do more harm than good and that alone was enough to make it okay."
Korra brought her hands to her chest, cradling them awkwardly. "Well what about Bolin?"
"What about him?"
"He's a bender; a pro-bender. He's on Team Avatar! Doesn't that make you angry?"
Memories of his brother flooded his mind. There was the time he challenged Mako to an Agni Kai, only to have Mako explain they couldn't because Bolin wasn't a firebender. All the times his baby brother wanted nothing else but to grow up to be just like him, firebender and all; he even remembered the disappointment on Bolin's face when he discovered he was in fact, an earthbender.
"I wanted to be a firebender!"
"What's wrong with being an earthbender? They're pretty cool—maybe you'll join the police force one day."
"But I wanted to be as cool as you!"
Mako ruffled his brother's hair. "Well maybe this way, you'll be even cooler than me."
"No," Mako whispered. He looked to Avatar Korra, her dirty face a mess and gently reaches into the chamber. Korra fliched backward at first, but noticed the shaking of his hands, the softness of his smile and leaned forward. She was a bit startled as he struggled to wrap his goggles around her eyes.
He looked into bright green eyes and felt his heart pound.
"Bo's just looks at the world differently; our lives are tinted different colors. And to be honest—" He hesitated, but continued, "I'm still not sure which one of us is right." Mako whispered.
Behind the goggles, her eyes went wide as saucers. She watched his movements carefully, picking up the subtle sag of his shoulders and downcast glare. If he was on the fence, she wanted to change his mind. Finally she admited, "Amon is going to kill me."
Mako whipped his head up. "No, he doesn't kill anyone. He just wants to take your bending away."
Korra huffed. "He threatened to murder you!"
"That's different, he grumbled, even though he wasn't quite sure.
"It is different—only it's worse for me. Amon's smart—and he's got a plan. He's going to kill me."
Skeptical, Mako eyed her. "What makes you so sure?"
"Avatar intuition." She shrugged, looking away.
The quiet came creeping back, but Mako was determined to keep it at bay. "How long do you think you'll be down here?"
"You're asking me? Who's guarding who again?"
"You said Amon had a plan!"
"Doesn't mean I have all the pieces!"
Mako groaned, repositioning himself to lean against the box again. Korra did the same. She fiddled with the goggles on her face, taking them off and on, before,
"Do you miss it?."
He fought a sneer. "No."
"Really? You don't miss firebending at all."
"Firebending is destructive and painful," he recited, his parents murder in the front of his mind. "My loss was for the better."
"I doubt that," Korra whispered. "Come here." She motioned gently. Skeptical, Mako leaned into the box, his face almost pressed completely to the metal.
"What?" He asked wearily. She turned her broken palms upward.
"Put your hands under mine, just like this."
"What are you—"
"Just do it."
He sighed, doing as she asked. He waited patiently as Korra stared at her marred palms, eventually allowing the smallest of flames burst to life.
Mako stared in awe. Her hands, similarly built like his held fire so gracefully. The feeling of it so close to his palm was warm and satisfying—it was nothing like the lighting he produced with gloves and technology. It was raw and pure and dare he say beautiful.
Korra couldn't help but smile as she watched his amber eyes glow bright gold, shining with light and fire, just like a true firebender's did. "Firebending has often been used for the wrong reasons," she admitted. "But, if you go way back you will see—true firebending isn't about destruction; it's about breath it's about life. All the bending arts are."
She extinguishes the flame.
"But I'm sure you already knew that. Once a firebender, always a firebender." she winked. She took the goggles off, inspecting their hardware. "You know, you can go back."
He whipped his head up so fast, it cracked. "What."
"You don't have to be an equalist. You can bust me out and join my team!" She flashed him a grin.
"Korra, shut up."
"What, don't want to see your brother again?" If the girl didn't have broken hands, he was certain she'd have them sassily on her hips.
"That's not it at all."
Korra rolled her eyes. "Then what is it?"
"Bolin doesn't want to see me, okay! Not—" his voice started to waver. "Not once he finds out what I've done. He'd never understand."
Korra looked to the shallow ceiling in thought. "Oh, I wouldn't be so sure about that."
Mako snorted. "Really. Name one person who would ever consider forgiving me after what I've done."
His blood ran cold.
The young Avatar looked at him, soft and gentle, the understanding etched between her scars and dirt; the understanding she promised that she had. He spotted blood in the corner of her mouth, crusted over with time from her captivity, a soft bruise blooming on her cheekbone. She was only seventeen years old, but under her gaze he felt the presence of thousands of years.
He believed her.
"Thank you," he whispered. Korra's soft smile curled wickedly.
"But, you'd have to change of course. It's kind of a package deal." She flashed him her teeth,
He allowed a soft chuckle. "Right, right…"
For the first time, the quiet that settles between them isn't awkward. He leaned up against the gritted side, his back pressing through the spaces. Korra leans up against him, her shoulder blade poking out just enough to touch his back. He pulled his mask over his mouth, once again uniform, once again, only a mere number in the system. His eyes, the only thing exposed, bright and gold, closed slowly, claiming sleep.
He grunted, shifting his weight, but her guard did not wake. she shoved harder. "Mako!"
He woke, startled, but disguised it well. He threw is mask down to wrap around his neck before he whipped around and met Korra's concerned face. She pointed down the tunnel, where a small, faint light appeared.
His mouth fell agape. "Oh." He rubbed the sleep from his eyes. "Oh!"
In a panic Mako jumped to his feet. He grabbed the edge of her box and with a few labored grunts, managed to lift the damn thing back upright. He heard a distinct thunk, followed by a shriek, "Hey!" But he offered no apology. The light grew until it stopped, allowing one lone equalist to jump off, waving his glove around for show.
"Hey, Makoooo," Hajime greeted. "Lieutenant should be down in a few minutes to get the Avatar," he noticed the box was back and upright. "Cause any trouble?"
Mako grunted. "No. She may be the Avatar, but not much of one."
From inside, Korra sneered. Hajime, though, laughed. "That's apparent! Can't even free herself from a box." He clapped Mako on the back. "Well, I got to pick up a few things but, thought I'd give you fair warning." From behind the mask, he grinned. "You know, in case you messed up and you needed time to make a run for it." Hajime turned his back, heading back to the cart.
Mako eyed the pair of kali sticks lying on the ground. "Hey, Hajime," He said slowly, tiptoeing quietly to retrieve them.
Hajime adjusted the setting on the cart, not turning his back. "Uh-huh?"
"What are you—AGH!" Hajime crumpled to the ground, his body flailing a few times as electrocution wracked his body.
Korra kicked the inside of her cage for the sake of noise. "Hey, what's going on? Mako?"
Mako swallowed the guilt and ran over to Korra. "Korra, can you make this look like an accident?"
From inside, Korra sputtered. "What on earth are you talking about! What's going on?"
He pounded on the metal, begging for her focus. "Korra! Can you make this look like an accident?" he repeated.
Realization set in, a smile growing on her face. "Most definitely."
Mako darted to the cart, running to the engine control settings. He flipped open a small tool box and yanked a pry bar free. "Hold on," he said quietly, throwing a glance down the tunnel—still dark. He passed an unconscious Hajime and ran to the box. Finding the lock, he set is glove ablaze and electrocuted the lock, letting the metal grow red with heat. With the pry bar, he wedged it in the small space created from the melted metal. He bit his tongue in concentration and tugged hard. After a few times, the metal loosened a good deal, but not completely.
"Think you can help out?" he whispered harshly. He heard a muffled "stand back" before he was running a few feet back, dodging the intense heat that came from her firebending. The young woman stumbled to the ground, still tied up around the waist and knees.
"I've done my part—you're gonna have to do the rest." Mako quickly untied her and collected the ropes in a bundle, throwing them on the cart. He peered down the tunnel.
"Shit." He pushed her towards the cart. "You got to go, now!"
Korra, looked back, confused. "What—you're not coming? then…Then why would you save me.?"
He paused for a moment. Then, "Because: You're my avatar, too."
She smiled, throwing her hands around his neck in a hug. He pushed her off quickly. "Enough already, now go."
She configured the setting before looking down the tunnel. Mako read her mind. "Set it for route 3. Take the second staircase 2 minutes after a guard pasts. Then, climb up the fist sewage cover you see and you're home free."
Her smile grew wider. The light at the tunnel was still faint. She watched as he picked up the kali sticks, sparking them to life. "Are you sure you don't want to come?" She knew what fate might become of him.
He peered down. "I still don't know, okay?" he admitted quietly. "I might regret this tomorrow. But for today…" He was at a loss of words.
Korra nodded, her smile now sad. "I get it." The light grew bigger as she started the cart to life. She thought she heard voices over the cackling of the sticks.
"Get going, Avatar!"
She put her broken hands on her hips. "Hey you called me Avatar!"
"Looks like you're keeping your title after all—though it seems like a pretty sucky job." He heard the cart rattling down the track as he positioned the sticks to both sides of his chest. "Now, go!"
He waited for the cart to leave the station before he struck himself. The pain ripped through his body, and he bit his tongue to keep quiet. He crumpled to the ground before the other cart arrived.
His vision clouded and the last thing he saw was a man in a mask before everything went dark.
"I could never be cooler than you, Mako!"
"I think you already are, Bo."
Picking her head up, she let loose an ear-splitting grin. "Bolin!"
He got to her much faster than she could. He picked her up in a crushing hug, causing her to cry out in pain. He let go immediately, a guilty look across his face. "Sorry! But, Spirits, Korra we were so worried!"
From behind she saw Tahno approach, his demeanor more collected. Though she was pretty sure this was the happiest he had ever seen her. "Glad to have you back, Uh-vatar. That is, if you still have your bending?" Both boys looked nervous until Korra nodded smiling.
"We're good. Aside from the broken hands."
Tahno reached over and slung one of her arms around his shoulder, Bolin grabbing the other one, before they started helping her trudge down the streets.
Bolin sniffed the air. "You smell like a sewer."
She pouted. "Don't judge me, I was kidnapped." Bolin laughed.
"Sorry, sorry," His free hand started running through her hand. "Hey, cool, what is this?" She felt him slide the goggles off her head. Clumsily, he made a one-armed attempt to put them on; they ended up sitting crooked on his face. "How do I look? Scary enough?" He made a silly face, causing her to giggle.
"Terrifying." Bolin took them off, juggling them with his hand.
"Bet you had to bash an equalist head pretty good to get this baby." He wiggled his eyebrow suggestively before putting them back on, resting them on the top of his head. "I think I look pretty cool."
"You should keep them." she said quickly. "A reminder of a battle won."
"Really? Wow, thanks Korra!" He gently knocked his fist against her forehead lovingly. "Maybe one day, We'll run into him again, hmm? He probably wants them back." He adjusts them, letting them sit straight. "And I might give them to him—after I kick his ass, of course."
Korra smiled. "I sure hope so."
AN: Oops. I Equalist!Mako'd. My hand slipped I swear.