Disclaimer: I own nothing, only a computer.

Based somewhat off of Kayoru's picture "No More Walls" on deviantart.

A Masked Man

The smoke is starting to clear as Korra uncovers her head and looks around. There had been some sort of explosion, but she's unsure if it was produced by the Equalists or by her friends. Not that it matters anymore. Half of the ceiling has collapsed, blocking off the exit.

"Tenzin? Mako? Lin?" she calls out, squinting the smoke.

Dragging herself to her feet, she continues her search.

Now would be a great time to be able to airbend, she thinks bitterly, barely able to see through the dark haze hanging in the air. She coughs. There's a body sprawled out on the ground before her-Tenzin. Lin is slumped nearby, with her arms over Mako, as if she had been trying to force him to the ground when the explosives went off. Nervously, she checks each of them for vital signs. They're all breathing, though, and Korra relaxes momentarily. It seems like all the Equalists have been knocked out too, and for the moment, the danger has passed.

Coughing again, Korra sits down on a large concrete slab, waiting for the air to clear. They're so close to victory that she can almost taste it, smokey and full of blood on the tip of her tongue. She's not sure how many people have died today, on either side. Her lower end estimate is somewhere near a thousand.

They had tried to minimize casualties; no one wanted a bloodbath. But the Equalists just kept coming, like their numbers would never dwindle, like they didn't care how many that they would lose.

She feels dirty.

There's the sound of footsteps overhead, and Korra can hear someone climbing down through the hole in the ceiling, sliding over the rubble. She silently gets to her feet. Through the smoke, she can see a figure bending down, checking the pulses of the Equalists.

It's Amon.

She stays silent and watches as he moves from person to person, before he finally stops, standing in the middle of the room. Her eyes are trained on the rapid rise and fall of his chest, and she listens to the sound of his ragged breath. He clenches and unclenches his fist in an exercise that Korra knows well; it's something that Tenzin taught Korra to help her release her anxiety, fear and frustration when things weren't going her way.

"No," she hears Amon whisper, and he sounds small and breakable.

He sounds human.

She takes a step towards him, and then another. It's terrifying, walking towards the man who has haunted the shadows of her mind for months, but Korra can sense something off about him. He won't hurt her. Not right now.

Seventeen steps and she's standing directly in front of Amon. His eyes are closed behind the mask, and Korra waits for him to open them. She's so close that she can see tiny teardrops clinging to his eyelashes when he opens his golden eyes. Korra tries to imagine what is going through his head.

His plan has failed. His followers are dead. He has failed them. The victory that he had so nearly held is being washed away, like sandcastles into the sea. He had promised his followers freedom and equality. All they had received was death. Death underground, drowning, burning, crushing deaths. He is a failure.

Korra cannot begin to fathom his loss.

Hesitantly, she reaches out and puts her hand on the cold, hard surface of his mask. Any noise that Amon's breath had been making before ceases. Without a word, Korra reaches inside his hood and around the back of his head to undo the mask's ties. Gently, she pulls it away from his face, in a motion that seems almost familiar.

It's funny, as much as she has thought about Amon, about who he really is, what his story could be, she's never given much thought to what he would look like behind the mask. He is a masked man, but Korra has always thought of him as the mask alone. Maybe he's had it on so long that it's become that way for him too.

He's younger than she thought he would be, and he's got a mess of long black hair that falls in his face. Once, he might have been handsome with sharp and strong features. His face still hangs in the shadow of his hood, and Korra steps forward, even closer. She can see every scar, every bit of uneven skin that mars his face, and she reaches out to touch it.

Amon's skin is warm, and the scars are softer than Korra would have thought, so unlike the deathly face of his mask. Delicately, she runs her fingers down his cheek, skimming over the surface of the scars. She can feel his body tense at her touch.

"Amon," she says his name, letting it roll off of her tongue with new meaning.

"What do you want from me, Avatar?" he asks, his deep voice almost inaudible.

All she wants is for everything to be over, for the fighting and the killing to come to an end. But there's nothing that Amon can do about that anymore. His defeat is imminent. It's too late for him to surrender, because he has nothing left to give up.

"I don't want anything," she replies quietly, her hand still on his face.

"What?" he says, a little louder this time.

"I don't want to take anything from you," she says.

He laughs softly.

"Too late," he tells her, glancing at the destroyed room and the bodies strewn across the ground.

Korra watches a tear slide down Amon's cheek and onto her hand.

She's so close to him that she can feel his breath on her hand. When she raises her other hand to his other cheek, he flinches as she strokes the scars. He opens his mouth to say something, but Korra cuts him off.

"I'm sorry," she says.

Amon nods in reply.

Korra leans forward. There's something about it that seems like the right thing to do, no matter how insane it seems. Her lips brush against his cheek in a kiss. She presses her lips against the marred skin in both forgiveness and an apology. Amon shudders, and Korra wonders if she has been haunting the depths of his mind too.

"Korra?" comes Mako's voice through the smoke, now receding.

Amon meets her eyes, and there's something there that Korra can't quite place. Is it a thank you?

"Korra?" Mako calls again, and Tenzin's voice soon joins him.

"I'm right here," Korra shouts back to them, not taking her eyes off of Amon.

It might be her imagination, but for half a second, Amon's lips curl up into a slight smile, and Korra turns around to see Mako coming towards her through the smoke.

"You're alright!" he says, and presses her into a hug.

When he lets go, Korra turns back around.

Amon is gone.