The streets were dark and friendless, but Korra still walked them. She moved slowly, eyes shifting down every which way so she could be assured that she was not being followed. It was quite crucial that she was alone, alone in this huge city that she now called home.
She wore a long, dark jacket and a hat that kept sliding down over her eyes. Her hair was down, her messenger bag was full of various foods (moon peaches, spring dumplings, fresh bread, potatoes, etc.), and the strap dug into her shoulder.
But still, she walked on. Alone.
Her destination was hidden deep inside the now nearly abandoned district. Honestly, she did not know if anyone knew its location but her. He'd done a good job of going into hiding. And while it seemed strange that she, the Avatar, would have to conceal her identity to walk the streets of the city, of her city, it was necessary. She couldn't let anyone discover her secret. She needed it. She needed the secret, and so she kept it inside, dark and throbbing in her chest.
After everything that had happened, after that final battle, the war was still unfinished. Her victory was nothing at all, really, because she still needed to deal with the situation. She still needed to handle the thugs and the gangs and the politicians. She still needed to control the scum of her city, the scum that did indeed use their bending in order to oppress others.
It was her job now.
But she still needed help. A lot of help. And, as strange as it seemed, Amon was the best person to ask for advice on the situation.
Korra looked down the street once more, watching as a Satomobile way down the street started up and slowly drove down the opposite direction. It chugged along unhappily, and she waited until the silence came once again. Before slipping backward into an alleyway, sidestepping past trashcans and airbending herself up over a pile of broken and lonely Satomobile parts that clogged her path. She was quiet, just like her city.
The rusted door creaked as she opened it and entered the abandoned apartment building. It echoed but it did not scare her, for she knew that it wasn't truly abandoned. She was the only one who knew.
As she walked through the hallway, she matched her footprints in the dust to the ones that she had made the last time she was here, and it reminded her once again that she needed to come more often. Her footprints came, and her footprints left. She was alone.
Korra should have brought more food.
Her steps reverberated on the metal staircase, breaking the silence, signaling her arrival as she climbed up to the apartment that he had claimed as his own. And when she came to his door, she knocked twice. It was an old habit.
"Come in, Korra," he said, his voice muffled through the door.
It was dark when she entered; only a single candle lit the studio. It flickered lightly, but Korra didn't even see it, didn't even look at him. Out of habit, her eyes fell down to the floor as she closed the door behind her and turned away from the couch, where he was always sitting, waiting, waiting for her. The radio was on, like usual. The music was soft; a low, jazzy beat filled the corners of the room.
"Sometimes that council is just infuriating," she said as she removed her hat and let it fall to the floor, shaking out her hair with her fingers. "I mean, I know it's not my job, and I can't be on the council, but sometimes I just wanna be on there so I can slap some sense into those people." She shrugged the jacket off. "Besides Tenzin, they're all idiots. Really, it was just the worst today." She set her bag of goodies down next to the rest of her things.
She turned then, expecting to see the back of his hood, like always, like always, but instead she stifled a gasp.
He hadn't told her to close her eyes.
And he always told her to close her eyes.
It's why she was in the habit of turning away right as she entered, because he'd make her, because he wanted time to make himself presentable, to tie his mask onto his face and pull up his hood, to hide himself away.
But he hadn't. He didn't.
His hair was black and slightly long, and it glowed darkly with the candlelight, little bits of orange reflecting off it. She'd been coming to him for months, he'd always told her to close her eyes so she didn't see him, really see him. This was the first time he hadn't said it.
"…Amon?" Her voice was shaky, and she knew it, she felt it and heard it, but this was too strange not to be nervous.
"Sit down. Tell me more about your day."
Her words got tangled in her throat, but she listened and obeyed, walking closer to him, staring at the back of his head. The world spun in slow-motion, because this was not real. As she got closer, she realized that yes, yes it was, because she could see over his shoulder that he was rubbing his bad leg again, the one hat he'd nearly lost, the one that she'd burned horribly when they'd fought those many months ago.
She remembered it well enough; some parts were a bit foggy.
"You know I'm right!" he'd screamed up at her, at Avatar Korra, as a ball of fire swirled around her. She'd entered the Avatar State just before he'd taken her bending, and she'd changed the tide of battle easily. An earthquake sent him stumbling back, the building starting to tremble and shake and crumble and collapse. Flames burst from her throat as she rose up from the ground, high up above the ground, and he was on fire, screaming, screeching.
He'd tried to fall to the ground, he'd tried to roll the burning away, but the white hot power had sizzled through her and she'd rushed down again and grabbed him by the throat.
And as she held him there, dangling above it all, as she held his life and his fate and her story in her hands, he yelled the words that eased her out of her rage.
"You're my Avatar too," he'd growled. "You're mine."
She did not kill him that fateful day, and it all fell from there. It fell perfectly into place, like it was always meant to be this way because he was right all along.
Because she was his Avatar too.
She was his too.
And maybe that's why she came to him for advice and for help because his dream was still alive, even if nobody thought he was. Because she had to do what was right and she had to save the city and she had to save him.
She sat down next to him and looked at the shadow of a man, looked at the mystery, looked at his ruined face, always hidden before. He turned to her then and reached his hand out, his fingers holding up a lock of hair and running down its length, slow and tender and nerve-wracking.
"Please, tell me what happened, Korra."
His voice sent a chill under her skin, and still she couldn't speak, she couldn't do anything but look, but discover and find the man that she'd known for so long now but really, she hadn't known him at all. Not like this.
So she stared.
She stared at the ugly scars that covered his face, the deep, flushed marks that netted across his skin, pulling it taut. She stared at his nose, halfway gone, the nostrils open and wide. She stared at his lips, drooping on one side, shiny and thin and sad. His eyes were set deep, and tufts of hair, the bits of hair in front that still remained and hadn't been scarred over, fell into them.
She stared at him, lit up by the candlelight, and she wondered how he was never afraid of fire, and she remembered all those times that he'd been confronted with it, that he'd dodged it and laughed at it, that he'd flown through it, that he'd become one with it, catching fire once more and crying out. She'd made him cry out, and he'd never even flinched.
Amon was fearless.
And he was beautiful.
Her fingers reached out, slowly, to touch him, to touch the scars. He flinched away, and she dropped her hand.
He flinched, and it reminded her that he was just a man, empty now. He was a shell, a shadow. And just like she'd been afraid of him so long ago, he was afraid of her now.
"I won't hurt you," she murmured, extended her hand out again and he let her this time, and she kept reaching out until her fingers glided onto his face, and she felt the smoothness of his scars beneath her fingertips. His eyes were frantic and wanting, so she touched the other side of his face and held him there, held him in her hands. Just like she was his… he was hers.
So she leaned forward, so slowly, so hesitantly, because there was so much there between them, so much left unsaid, so much already done, so much pain and fear and want and need. It was all there, thick and heavy, but she leaned through it all and kissed him.
And as her lips moved against his, she felt it. She felt what he'd wanted from the beginning.
His mouth opened up to hers and their breaths mingled and it burned, it burned. But this fire would not scar because she felt what he'd been trying to tell her all along, after all this time. In that moment, he was no longer the shadow of a radical leader whose goals had fallen from his fingertips, and she was no longer the young Avatar who wanted to save everyone. They were no longer those people.
They were equals.