Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar.

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Denial

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Mako sat at the end of the long table, tapping his gloved fingers impatiently on the metal thing, glaring to the side where the Avatar and United Forces General sat, going over plans of attacks against Amon and conversing casually.

"We could lead the Equalist Air Ships away from Air Temple Island and then quarantine it with your fleet, and then I could go in and finish Amon off," Korra told Iroh enthusiastically, and he nodded, approving highly of her plan and giving her the same charming smile he had been all evening. Mako rolled his eyes at the man, looking at the ground. Iroh and Korra were sitting closely, skimming over notes and maps in attempts to find the most efficient ways to go after Amon with, and it made Mako uncomfortable – especially the way that Iroh would occasionally look up at Korra when he thought no one spying him, considering Bolin had retired to bed and Asami couldn't stand to be in the same room as Mako any longer. Iroh's golden eyes were filled with thoughtful admiration for the woman when he would look at her and Mako's stomach churned when he caught him staring at her.

"Brilliant," he complimented her, and she grinned back. "We'll have ships and soldiers ready on a moment's notice, though – I won't have you going in there all by yourself without some back up. We can't have such a lovely face getting hurt." His voice was soft and it made Korra blush sheepsihly, put off by his kindness to her. She was so used to Mako being so moody that this even-tempered Firebender in front was a pleasant change that she was having trouble adjusting to.

Mako shook his head and crossed his arms. "She won't be going in there by herself at all," he interjected, eyes narrowed at Iroh.

Iroh raised an eyebrow and Korra gave Mako a look. "I know, I just said—"

"No," he told the General sternly. "I'll be going in with her. There's not a chance in hell that I'm letting you take Amon on by yourself, Korra." The Avatar blinked at the younger Firebender, noticing the powerful emotions swirling in his irises and swallowing.

"Well, I'm not letting anyone else get hurt – I'm going in by myself, whether you like it or not, Mako. It's not your decision to make." Korra was glowering at him, annoyed by his trying to dictate her decisions.

"Don't be stupid, Korra!" he leaned forward, "You could get hurt! And what happens if you do? Who's going to be there to help you? No one – you'll be at Amon's mercy!"

"Why do you suddenly care?" Korra stood up sharply then, surprising Iroh.

"I've always cared!" Mako countered, and when he saw the General staring in between the two, blinking and unsure, he became aware that their potential fight was being watched by a man he honestly didn't like too much. "Excuse me," he turned to the man, his tone curt. "I need to speak with Korra – privately." At this, he walked towards the large metal door of the ship's command room, and when he stopped at it and turned, he looked at Korra, expecting her to follow.

She glared at him before huffing, leaving her seat by Iroh to go to the younger Firebender. She stopped short, however, and turned to him. "I'm so sorry," she told Iroh, holding up her hands apologetically. "This won't take long – I promise I'll be back in a few minutes."

"It's no trouble, Korra," he responded politely, smiling. "Actually, now that I think about – it is getting a bit late for this. If you'd like, we could discuss our game plan further a little later tonight, without any interruptions?" He peered back at Mako as he said the last part of his sentence, making it very clear how he thought of him as a distraction, and the Firebender grimaced. Korra smiled at him, nodding in agreement and paying no mind to Mako, having to deal within him a few more minutes anyhow. "Great. I'll be in my corridors, if you would like to come and see me. You know where my room is, don't you?" She shook her head 'no' and he continued with, "It's down the main hall." He turned and collected up his papers and maps then, rolling them up delicately and setting them under his arm. "I look forward to seeing you, Korra. I'll make us some tea for then." His voice was noticeably lower than before, and it made her flush and her stomach flutter.

Mako nearly fumed openly at his catching of the subtle undertones of Iroh's words, but found it in himself to calm his composure enough to wait at the door impatiently for the Avatar. "Korra, we need to talk now," he called from across the room, jolting her out of her little reverie and making her glare intensify at him.

"Shut up," she answered back. "I'm coming." She turned and gave Iroh one last look before travelling over to the other Firebender, who wasted no time in swinging the large metal door open and showing them out.

~P~

"What's your problem?" Korra cried at Mako as they travelled down the many hallways of the head United Forces ship.

"My problem? My problem? You're the one who isn't taking any of this seriously, Korra! That's my problem!" He exploded at her, turning around and swinging his hands out at her slightly smaller form, wanting to grab her and shake her into seeing his side of it all – the side of him that wanted nothing more than to ensure her safety.

"I am so!" she countered, hands on her hips. "I'm the one who has to ultimately face Amon – of course, I'm taking this seriously!"

"Oh, really," he grumbled, "then why were you doing more flirting back there than planning, hm? Because from what I could see, you two just spent the entire time making eyes at each other!"

Korra's stomach flopped at his comment, but she kept her composure. Yes, it was true that she found Iroh extremely attractive and kind and, yes, maybe she was flirting with him a bit... but what business was it of Mako's? Besides, she wasn't going to admit such a thing to the man who had broken her heart repeatedly. "What are you talking about? W-we were not! He was just being nice, unlike you! You're just... just jealous!" The realization hit her then. "You're jealous... w-why?"

Mako immediately became defensive at how easily she called him out on his jealousy. "I-I am not," he answered pathetically. "I just—"

"If you're not jealous, then why do you care if I flirt with him?" she asked him, jutting out her hip. "It's my decision who I like, Mako. And I know you like me, and... and I like you, but that's not really working out for us right now, now is it?" Korra wasn't stupid – she knew that even though Mako rejected her for Asami, he sent her fleeting looks and took any chance he got to hold her hand or touch her. It was him being indecisive as usual, and it was hurting her now more than ever.

Mako froze at her calling him out so blatantly. "Don't tell me how I feel, Korra," he spat. "I do not like you," he lied, refusing eye contact. "Just because we kissed once doesn't mean I'm as hopelessly in love with you as you think I am. Stop being so selfish."

Korra's temper flared at his comment to her. "I'm selfish? Look who's leading two girls on at the same time and then telling one of them that she can't like another guy because he's so damn possessive," she hissed. "You're unbelievable, Mako. All you do is deny yourself and those around you."

"I pointed out your flirting because I want you to focus," he covered pitifully for himself. "If you don't start paying attention, you're going to get your stupid self killed or something!"

The Avatar could feel the flames sparking in her hands, so eager to punch him in the face. "We weren't flirting, you self-important bastard!" she yelled, clenching her fists and just barely controlling the licking fire coming out of them. She knew she was denying her activities with the General, but she wasn't about to let Mako take the opportunity to be correct and get all smug with her – especially when he was lying to himself and her right back. And despite what his jealous self thought – she was paying attention.

"And I don't like you!" he countered, stepping so close to her that they were eye to eye, glaring furiously. His teeth were gnashing together in his rage, and he wanted nothing more than to grab her and shake some sense into her – to somehow get her to realize that he was just being a stubborn ass and that he did, he really did like her, love her even—

"Whatever!" she shouted, voice strangled, holding back her frustrated tears. "I can't do this with you anymore, Mako! Leave me alone and let me make my own decisions!" She turned then, about to march away from him, when in a rush of confused emotions, the Firebender grabbed her wrist and pulled her back to him.

Korra was shocked by the sudden action, and blinked at him. No words were exchanged between them, just short, hot, angry breaths. He peered at her lips and into her deep blue eyes, his amber ones flickering between the two. She was about to open her mouth to say something, but instead, he crushed his lips against hers, affectively cutting her off.

The Avatar reeled back at the contact, and his hands snaked around her waist, pulling her against him as his mouth assaulted hers hungrily. Korra quickly regained her wits, but instead of pulling away like her common sense was telling her to, she weaved her fingers into his hair and yanked his face harder into hers, deepening their kiss.

They continued their bruising lip lock for a few moments before he pushed her against the wall with a thud, which caused her to moan throatily. The sound she made went straight to the Firebender's groin, and his lips were back on hers instantaneously. His mouth then found her neck, and peeling the fabric of her shirt away, he nipped and bit at it, causing her sensitive skin to redden and rise and Korra's heart to race against her ribcage.

"M-Mako," she managed out, trying to catch her breath from his feverish kisses.

He responded by whispering her name huskily into the skin of her neck, causing a shudder to run down the length of her spine, before tonguing and sucking at the bright red bruises he had created. His hands travelled up her shirt while she tugged at his short, coarse hair and felt at the muscles through the flimsy fabric of his tunic, gaining a guttural groan of pleasure in response.

A short amount of time passed uninterrupted, but when the floor down the corridor creaked as though someone was coming, they jumped apart, breathing heavily from the lack of air received. Korra straightened out her ruffled blue shirt, while Mako smoothed down his hair to look presentable. But no one came as they waited, and they looked at each other. Korra saw the flashing look in Mako's eyes that made her heart jump into her throat, and when he stepped closer to her so that they could engage in their previous activities again, it all caught up with her and she felt a flood of anger and unresolved feelings for the boy in front of her and she lifted her one of her hands to feel at the small mark he had made against her nape.

He placed a hand on her shoulder, and was just about to speak her name when she raised her other hand and smacked him swiftly across the face. The Firebender nearly fell backwards, but he caught himself and held a gloved hand to his face, taken aback by her violent change in attitude towards him. He then noticed her trembling form, her piercing blue eyes filled with angry tears and the scowl embedded on her features, the darkness of her look intensified by the shadows surrounding her.

"Korra," he started quickly, "I—"

"I hate you," she said simply, though it was as far from the truth as possible. The words hit Mako like a blow to the head and made his chest hurt, his head spinning with regret and confusion. "Why did you do that, Mako?" She was furious with him – she wanted answers, and she wanted them now. "Why do you keep doing this to me? To... to us?" He tried to walk closer to her, but she just pulled away and stepped back. Her avoidance of him and the soft sniffling noises she made were making his heart clench painfully. "If you didn't like me, you wouldn't have done that. So why do you keep lying? Why are you so in denial over what you feel?" When he didn't say anything immediately, she yelled madly at him, "Tell me!"

But he didn't – he wanted to tell her about his dwindling relationship and feelings for Asami and how he was so impossibly in love with her that it actually hurt him to see her so friendly, so soon with Iroh. But he just avoided the truth, just like every other chance he had. "I'm confused," he lied partially, because he was but at the same time, he had a definite answer: he loved the woman in front of him unconditionally.

"That's what you always say!" she cried, finally allowing a frustrated tear to trail down her cheek. She turned suddenly, wiping at it furiously. She began to walk to her room then, clawing at her eyes, willing her tears to evaporate, but instead they just came faster.

"Korra, please!" he called after her – he didn't know why, though; he didn't know what to say to her and she wouldn't have it, anyhow.

"Just go away, Mako," she choked, disappearing into the shadows of the next hallway. Her words echoed down the metal corridor as she walked away, haunting him in that moment.

"Just go away, Mako... Just go away..."

~P~

Iroh peered up at his clock from his place at his small table – twelve o'clock AM. He then looked to his door, his black eyebrows downturned in worry as to where Korra was. He had invited her three hours prior, and expected her to have come and join him by then – she had seemed more than happy enough to talk with him in private.

He wondered if he should go check on her – she had seemed pretty annoyed at the other Firebender, so maybe something had occurred and he had upset her? The thought of Korra being displeasured while under so much stress already compelled the young General to sit up and make his way to his door, determined to go and see the Avatar.

As he walked to her assigned room, he reflected on the woman. He was enraptured with her – she was vivacious, clever, headstrong, gorgeous, fiery... she was unlike any woman Iroh had ever met. She brought out his inner passion, made him smile more often than he had ever before because she just oozed radiance and confidence. They had barely known each other for a week, and yet he still wished to spend the majority of his hours with her, and she seemed the same way, both enjoying the other's company. She had a certain dangerous presence to her that made his job more exciting, more invigorating – and he loved that about her.

When he arrived at her door, he raised his hand to knock at it, but stopped when he heard her voice.

"Stupid Mako...!"

He raised an eyebrow at that, concerned by the tremble in her voice, and then proceeded to rap his fist on the thick metal door. "Is everything okay, Korra? May I come in?"

Korra jumped at the sound of his voice, but composed herself and turned around and whispered softly, "Y-yes, Iroh." Her eyes were drooping from exhaustion at her shedding of her tears, but her mind was running through a million thoughts a minute, preventing her from getting a wink of sleep.

The General slowly opened her door, peeking in his head slowly, his face painted with worry. His eyes glinted when he saw her wipe at her eyes and nose furiously, obviously trying to conceal the fact that she had been crying recently. He repeated himself, "Are you okay, Korra?"

"O-oh, yes," she lied, smiling forcedly at him. He walked in further to her room and let the large door clunk shut behind him. He tried to catch her eyes, but she wouldn't allow him to do so, evading his golden gaze and making him frown. She waved dismissively then and laughed, "I'm perfectly fine. Just... uh, the pressures of being the Avatar, I guess. I don't really feel like talking about map plans anymore, though... I'm sorry." He didn't like the fact that he was being blatantly lied to – he wanted her to trust him, like he did her.

He walked closer to her and sat a short distance away from her on her bed, deciding to give her some space. "Is that all that's bothering you?" He didn't want to press and make her annoyed, but if he could get down to the root of the problem and help fix it for her, then he would be more than happy to.

She sniffled and palmed at the reappearing tears in her eyes – she didn't want to have to get Iroh involved. He was a kind-hearted young man that didn't need to the stress of getting sucked into the hopeless love life of the even younger Avatar. It was not difficult for the man to extrapolate, though, and a few seconds later, when she hadn't responded, he said quietly, "Does it have to do with Mako?"

Korra turned to him sharply, shaking her head. "N-no, not at all. What makes you say that?"

"You already looked pretty upset when you two left the command room," he explained, weighing in that it only made sense that it was the openly-irritated Firebender.

Korra sighed heavily, bringing her knees to her chest and hugging them to her. "He's just being an idiot, like usual," she told him, avoiding the truth behind her tears. "He's always acting like he wants to protect me and that he cares – but I know he doesn't. Or else he wouldn't treat me like he does."

She raised her hand and pushed a tress of hair out of her face then, and Iroh followed the movement with his eyes, wanting to caress her face with his own palm and make her content again, but not allowing himself to, for fear of her becoming uncomfortable. As his eyes fell, though, they caught sight of something red on her neck, peeking out through the top of her shirt. He realized with a jolting start to his heart what it was – it had not been there before their meeting, he knew that. And there was only one other person she had been with since their brief separation.

The realization made the General sick – even worse than when he first started out steering ships, when he would feel nauseous all the time.

With sudden hurt taking over his system, he resolved to leave her be then, knowing she just needed a moment alone to sort her feelings, while he needed his own now. Looking to the ground with a small, saddened smile, he took her hand and pressed a delicate kiss to the soft flesh, in a silent promise that if she wanted to vent or talk, that she knew where he was. His lips lingered a few seconds longer than he thought they probably should have on her hand, purely for his own desire to be the one to comfort her, but he eventually pulled away and stood before her, waiting for her to do something, anything.

She still did not look at him, and so he made his way to her doorway, and was about to exit when he instead stopped and whispered, "I think he does care about you, Korra. I think he cares about you a lot. He's just in denial... eventually he'll come to his senses and realize what a wonderful young woman you are." And at that, he opened her door and left her be, leaving her sitting there, frozen stiff that he had been able to read her so easily, not knowing of his accidentally seeing her love bite.

She knew by Iroh's tone of voice, despite how much he tried to hide it, that he was hurt by her fixation with the Firebender... and if she could do anything about it to make stop, if she could just cease loving Mako, then she would, for her feelings for him brought her more pain than joy. But such emotions could not just be whisked away for the sake of convenience, and she hated it. She hated that she felt so strongly for a man who wouldn't openly return her feelings, while she hurt another one who truly did like her back and who she felt the beginning sprouts of affection for back.

A few more moments of dizzying thoughts assaulted Korra's overactive brain, before she finally felt herself nodding off, and deciding to no longer resist it, she laid down and let sleep overtake her, the gentle rocking of the boat on the water granting her into a dream world filled with peace that her own real one didn't possess.

~P~

Author's Notes: I totally ship Korroh and Irosami. I don't care if Iroh only got twenty seconds of screen time – it's the Avatar fandom, we're crazy, man. XD

This is quite angsty... no regrets, though. LoK is all angst right now, anyway.

Also, Mako... stop being so stupid and get your shit together and break up with Asami already and get with Korra. You're making it very difficult to like you right now. DX