Safety Precaution (or, "How I Want the Makorra Kiss to Be if We Do Get a Kiss in the Finale", but that's a mouthful. :P)
Republic City's underground framework of tunnels was far more extensive than Korra had imagined. Not for the first time that day, she wished Lin was accompanying them.
"Them" referred to Korra and Mako, decked in Equalist garb handily provided by Gommu and his fellow vagabonds. Unfortunately, they hadn't had any masks on hand, which left Korra feeling sorely exposed—anyone who had read Republic City's papers knew her face well enough by now. Under the circumstances, though, it was the best that could be done. Some disguise was better than no disguise, and in the dim lighting of the tunnels it was hard to discern facial features clearly.
"Hide!" Mako hissed, pulling Korra to the side. Korra crouched behind one of the metal arches, pulling the cloth hanging loosely around her neck up to cover the bottom half of her face. She strained her ears to detect signs of an approach, but heard only her heartbeat.
One. Two. Three. Exhaling, Korra risked a peek around the pillar before whipping her head back around to face Mako. "There's nothing there. No one's coming, Mako."
Mako's eyebrows knit themselves into a V. "I could've sworn I heard something," he muttered.
Korra nudged him gently in an attempt to put him at ease. "It's just your nerves overreacting," she said. "What happened to your 'cool under fire' approach, Cool Guy?"
The use of his familiar nickname seemed to soothe Mako somewhat, because his forehead smoothed slightly. Korra exhaled in relief. Mako had been tense all day, ever since his breakup with Asami. Things had finally blown up, culminating in a shouting match that ended with Asami turning away, saying, "I can't do this anymore," and Mako agreeing with a defiant, "Me, neither."
It had definitely damaged their team dynamic, and Korra couldn't help pinning some of the blame on herself. But it was too late to dwell on her past actions. She needed to focus on moving forward—and come to think of it, Mako did, too. After all, Korra had dragged Mako along for a reconnaissance mission because she thought the space from Asami would help him. It'd be easier to forget things and move on if he didn't have to worry about running into Asami while walking around the underground camp. Of course, when Korra had presented the idea, she'd simply pitched it to Mako as a necessary excursion, when in reality it was just something to help Mako take his mind of off things.
Evidently, it wasn't as successful as Korra had planned. Mako's frustration and anxiety had transferred to other things, so that he jumped at the slightest noise and constantly urged Korra to stay down. On any other day, Korra would have yelled at Mako to stop babying her, but she realized that he didn't know how else to cope. From that realization stemmed understanding, so Korra put up with it, if only for a day.
"I'm sorry," Mako sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I've just been…edgy all day, and fearing that every corner we turn we're going to run into Amon and he's going to take away your bending isn't helping."
"You're worried about me?" Korra gaped, astonished by Mako's words. Your bending. Not "my bending" or "our bending," but "your." Deliberately directed towards her.
"Of course," answered Mako. "You're the Avatar." Then his face softened, and Korra saw in his eyes a trace of the Mako from the other night, when they'd both been stricken by insomnia and had talked while leaning against Naga's reassuring hide. "And you're Korra. You're brash and bold and…" Korra leaned in, waiting with bated breath. Dare he say it? Was Mako going to call her beautiful?
She never heard it. Mako's face closed on itself and he gave a halfhearted shrug instead. "And you need to stay safe and alive and whole. Which means you can't lose your bending."
Or you, Korra wanted to say, but her throat closed up and she nodded before straightening. "Right. Well, staying safe should be easy—I've got you to make sure I don't do anything stupid. Right?" she teased, punching Mako on the arm.
Mako dipped his head in acknowledgement, but his voice sounded doubtful. "I'm not so sure I'm good at protecting the people close to me," he remarked.
"Nonsense!" scolded Korra, and now she was the one tossing adjectives in his face, a reverse from the other night, and from earlier. "You're loyal and careful and intelligent and…and gentle, and I wouldn't have anyone else beside me right now," Korra rambled.
Something flared in Mako's eyes, and for the briefest moment, he smiled. "Same goes for me."
Korra averted her eyes, suddenly shy. What was she doing? What were they doing? Was it too soon after Asami and Mako ended? And had Asami and Mako really ended today, in that moment, or had they been over even before that, not necessarily verbally but emotionally? Did that make this, whatever this was, right?
Lost in her thoughts, Korra chose a random turn when she came to a fork in the tunnels. Mako followed her without questioning, silent and stoic behind her. He seemed to be in a brooding mood, too.
"Mako!" Korra stopped, clutching Mako's sleeve and gesturing with her other hand. "What's that?"
Mako regarded the metal door in front of them. It was sealed tightly shut, in stark contrast with the other doors they'd encountered. The tunnels had been strangely empty of Equalist activity in their part of the city—most of the Equalists had been congregating towards the center of the city, massing for the final attack. The doors Korra and Mako had encountered over the past few days were either poorly guarded or completely abandoned. There hadn't been much to find in any of those rooms. But this door looked important. There could be something big behind it, if they could find a way to open it.
"I think it's worth a shot," agreed Mako.
Korra was already studying the door eagerly, trying to find a handle or padlock to blast open, but the door was strangely smooth, save for a single circular opening.
Korra frowned. "A metalbender would really come in handy right now," she grumbled.
"Let me see," offered Mako, peering through the circle. He couldn't make out much. It was dark and didn't seem to open out into the other side of the door. "Well, the circle isn't a peephole or anything."
"Agh," groaned Korra, frustrated. "The one useful piece of information we might be able to get our hands on, and it's probably locked behind that door!" She spread a palm out on the shiny surface and closed her eyes, trying to think. "Hey, do you think it could be one of those doors that opens with a certain type of bending? Like if I shoot water in there it'll open or something?" She looked to Mako for his opinion and was met by one raised eyebrow.
"Oh yeah, right. It's an Equalist door. So…no bending." Korra racked her brain, trying to think of another method. Her head snapped up. "But what if it's something that all Equalists can generate?" she asked excitedly.
Mako's eyes met hers. They said it at the same time. "Lightning."
Wordlessly, Korra stepped aside to give Mako space. Mako closed his eyes and settled into a firebending stance, breathing in deeply as he pushed all of his concerns out of his mind. He pointed two fingers at the opening. A spark of electricity arced from his fingers, fizzling and crackling in the hole for a moment.
Korra's eyes widened as she pushed on the door. She turned back to Mako, her eyes gleaming with excitement. "It's opening! Come on!"
"Korra, wait." Mako stopped Korra from pushing open the door. Korra spun around, eyes questioning and then surprised as Mako gripped her forearms tightly and covered her mouth with his.
They stayed like that, breathless under the dim underground lighting, bodies and mouths warm against each other's. Korra closed her eyes, resting her hands gently on Mako's chest.
Mako broke away first, nodding curtly at Korra, his voice suddenly low and thick with emotion. "Be careful."
Korra nodded back, mute, before pressing open the door, this time for real.
One behind the other, she and Mako went in.
A/N: Thoughts? :) Sorry it's kind of short. :-/ But if you liked this and haven't seen my other Makorra fics, there's Like A Slow Fire Burn which is another one-shot, and then Time Runs Slow, a collection of drabbles based on prompt words.
Also, could anyone PM me with a link to the 30 day challenge prompt words? I really want to write more drabbles but I haven't been able to find the prompt words anywhere, so whoever does this, I'll be really thankful! :)