AN: Thank you all so much for your reviews and support! Hope you enjoy this one! (You'll tell me if it's too slow, right? Not telling an author that a chapter is slow is like letting them walk around with toilet paper on their shoe.)
Korra was beat. She felt like she'd just had a day-long tournament packed into a couple hours – and then lost every bout. Sure, a lot of benders had gone home happy today… but a lot more hadn't. Their faces were in her mind, pleading. Just one more. One more. And Korra had done one more and then another after that and another until she was so tired she could hardly stand up straight as she walked out of that assembly hall.
Mako had waited until they were in the dim hallway to pull her close and help carry some of her weight. He didn't say anything, just pulled her along and looked down at her in that way he'd had ever since she'd escaped from Tarrlok. Korra knew she should have been grateful for the help, and for the sign that he cared about her, but she was tired and his gait was different from hers and this whole carry-me thing wasn't as pleasant as it had been when she had actually needed help. It also didn't help that Mako had nearly gotten in a fight with one of their allies over something as stupid as a look.
Finally, she shrugged and sighed and, when he didn't take the hint, said, "I can walk on my own, you know. I'm not dying."
Mako frowned and eased off a little but didn't let go. "I just want to help, Korra. You're exhausted."
"Yeah but I can walk just fine," she said.
"Why waste the energy when I can help you?" Mako asked.
Korra didn't want to say Because it bothers me because that sounded pretty ungrateful, especially considering all Mako had done for her in the past few weeks, so instead she just sighed and went along with him. It took more energy to argue, anyway.
Corporal Lukka led them up several flights of stairs and down a corridor lined with numbered doors. Offices, Korra realized blearily, but when Lukka knocked on a specific door and Asami opened it from inside, the room beyond didn't look like an office. There were two cots and a short table. Some vaguely familiar bags were tossed on a desk that had been pushed up against one wall. In the center of the room, a coal heater was set up on a fireproof pan, glowing from within.
Asami took one look at Korra and opened the door wide. Mako guided her through. Korra didn't see it, but heard Asami thank the corporal and close the door.
With a sigh, Korra drew away from Mako and plopped her rear on one of the cots. It was stiff and she could feel the wooden supports through the pallet. She poked them a couple times, frowning. "Why aren't we going back to Air Temple Island?" she asked.
"Take a wild guess." Mako folded his arms over his chest. Korra turned her frown on him, then looked to Asami.
She was peering at Mako with a raised eyebrow, but caught Korra's look and shrugged. "The soldier who brought me here said Iroh was worried about security on the island and couldn't spare the resources to send a unit with us." Mako nodded as if this was no surprise but Asami peered at Korra, brow furrowing. "What happened?" she asked.
"The great Iroh had her restore bending for nearly two hours. She's totally drained."
"Actually," Korra said, bracing her hands on the edge of the bed at either side of her hips and frowning again up at Mako, "I pushed myself as far as I could go today because, if you hadn't noticed, there are a lot of people who need my help. If I give up every time I get tired, I'll never get through all of them."
Mako held out a hand toward her as if presenting reason right there in his palm. "You're still recovering, Korra. If you burn yourself out, nobody else is going to be able to help."
"I'm as strong as I've ever been," she said, standing suddenly. "Stop treating me like an invalid, Mako."
His pointed brows angled in hurt, then turned downward. "You don't need me? That's fine." Mako turned toward the door, hands balling into fists at his sides. He yanked it open and paused in the doorframe, peering back over his shoulder. "I'll be with Bolin. In case you change your mind." The door shut gently behind him.
Korra sat hard on the cot and made a disgusted sound. Her forehead felt hot and heavy in her hands and the bones of her elbows dug into her knees. Now she'd hurt his feelings. She should probably go after him right now, try to tell him it was just stress, seeing all those people…
"Woah," Asami said quietly, as if coming out of a frozen state. "I'm sorry I didn't give you guys some privacy…"
Korra looked up and found her standing exactly where she had been before but now with her head lowered and her arms crossed. "Don't worry about it – I'm sorry you had to see that. Can I ask you…? Was I… overly harsh?"
Asami's eyebrows crept up her forehead. "I think I'll stay out of it, if you don't mind. I'm not exactly in the best position for unbiased observations."
"Ah, sorry. That was a stupid thing to say." Korra bit her lip and glared off to one side, then peered back up at her. "I'm really sorry things happened the way they did. I never intended… I've gotta be the worst friend ever at this point."
Asami was quiet for a minute, then came to sit on the bed next to Korra's, leaning back on her hands. "Well, you did come over to my house and eavesdrop on my father's phone calls. And then you accused him of being an Equalist and incited a full-blown investigation. And then you turned out to be right. Oh, and you dinged my car before we blew it up." She sighed and, mouth a pretty pout, stared up at the ceiling. "I guess by stealing my boyfriend you were just following the trajectory of destruction that you've always had in my life."
Korra listened with her mouth slightly open and frost creeping out from her gut. She really had ruined Asami's life. Just like that. Hi, I'm the Avatar and everything you care about is a lie. "Asami, I'm so sorry. I—"
"But you also have this sick gift for showing me the truth," Asami cut in. She was looking at Korra now, not smiling but not exactly angry either. "And as a person, I like you a lot. You're capable and tough and not afraid to take a risk – nothing like most of the girls I've grown up around. I really want to be your friend, Korra."
"I feel the same way about you, Asami."
She did smile then. It was a tiny, sad thing. "Maybe when I get back things will work out a little more in our favor."
Korra sat up and braced her hands on her thighs. "When you get back from what? Where are you going?"
Asami took a deep breath and folded her hands in her lap. "It's time I sorted out my father's business. The legitimate part, I mean. Satomobiles are still selling somewhere and it's been weeks since anyone signed any paperwork."
"But…" Korra stared, mentally groping. "But what about the Equalists? And Amon? There's so much left to do. You're just going to leave us and… go sign forms?"
"For a while, yes." Asami's frown shifted at the sight of whatever was on Korra's face. She tipped her head to one side and her eyebrows tilted back. Her teeth showed, just the tiniest bit. "Please don't make me say it."
And Korra understood. It was Mako. Her and Mako. Asami didn't want to be around them like at the South Pole, not when she could be anywhere else. And Korra could understand that, though she wished so much that it wasn't the case. "I'll really miss your driving, Asami."
"You'll have to come out to the track sometime," she said. "Maybe we can improve your parking skills."
"Ha. Funny." Korra hung her head, smiling a pained kind of smile. "I would like that, though."
After a couple of wrong guesses, Mako stuck his head into a converted office and found Bolin sitting on the floor, trying to teach Pabu how to do a back-flip. When the door shut behind him, Mako leaned against it and rubbed his face.
"Bolin, I wish you'd just give up already. I don't think Pabu is ever gonna learn this one."
Bolin didn't even look up. "Brother mine, I am frankly shocked at your lack of faith. Pabu, once he sets his mind to it, can learn anything. Right, buddy?" He wiggled a piece of banana-cracker in front of the fire ferret, who only reached for it and then stared at Bolin with his head tipped to one side. "He just doesn't understand why it's important yet. That's all. As soon as I communicate the significance of the back-flip, he'll be all over it."
Mako scuffed across the room to the cot that didn't have so much ferret fur on it and lay down. "I mean that I don't think it's physically possible. Look at the size of his legs and compare that to the size of his stomach. It's not gonna happen."
Bolin did look – Pabu looked perfectly capable to him – but then he looked more closely at his brother. "What's your problem?"
"I don't have a problem." Mako laid an arm over his eyes as if to sleep.
"You only ever criticize Pabu's training when you have a problem, Mako." Bolin leaned back on his hands. Pabu snatched up the banana-cracker and scurried under the bed to eat it. "What's up?"
Mako heaved a sigh. "What do you think of Iroh?" he asked at last.
Bolin shrugged, looking up at the ceiling and scratching his chest. "Nice enough guy. Not afraid of heights. Very muscley back."
Mako lifted his arm and looked up at his brother, frowning.
"We were tied up together," Bolin said loudly. "My back was tied to his back – it was hard not to notice, alright?"
Shaking his head, Mako relaxed and covered his eyes again. "Do you think we can trust him?"
"Yeah, sure. I guess."
"Yeah, why wouldn't—?" Bolin stopped and stared at his brother, wide-eyed. "You think he's got it for Korra?"
Mako sat up and turned to brace his back against the wall. "You saw the way he was watching her today, didn't you?"
"Ah, sure. We were all watching her, Mako. She's the Avatar. Does amazing stuff – you know."
"But the look on his face? Bolin, it was like, like Pabu staring at a frog-cricket."
Bolin's eyes squeezed tighter and he raised his chin. "You think he wants to eat her?"
"No, Bolin." Mako sank his forehead into one hand. "It's just… He's a powerful guy. Do you remember how it was with the Triple Threats when we worked for powerful guys?"
Bolin remembered. The color drained from his face. "I don't think Iroh's like that. No way."
"And what if he is?" Mako leaned forward, peering desperately at his brother. "What do we do if the guy running everything in this city turns out to be just as bad as them? Go to the police? He owns the police. The council? Tenzin is the only one left and his family is right here, surrounded by Iroh's guards."
Bolin said nothing, only staring at the floor with troubled eyes.
Mako rubbed his face and gritted out the rest. "If he decides to go after Korra and she says no, what do you think will happen?"
For a second, Bolin looked pained. But then his brow furrowed and he frowned. "He'll back off if he knows what's good for him. And if he doesn't, Korra will knock his teeth in."
"But what if he surprises her? What if he drugs her or knocks her out or—"
"Mako!" Bolin was standing now, holding his empty hands out to either side. "She's the Avatar. She beat Amon even after he took her bending away. Whatever Iroh might be up to – if he's even up to anything – she's got it handled. You don't need to worry about it."
Mako sat back against the wall and folded his arms over his chest. "Fine, Bolin. If you say so."
"Great!" Bolin clapped his hands and rubbed them together vigorously. "Someone is supposed to be here soon with dinner. I've got my fingers crossed that it'll be dragon-chicken but I guess hippo-pork would be good too…"
Mako was no longer listening. He was scowling at the floor, trying to figure out what he was going to do to save Korra. Because contrary to what his little brother thought, Mako did need to worry about it. He had been there when Amon took Korra's bending. He had watched her body contort against her will, had watched the vitality drain from her eyes – and the whole time he had been pinned to the floor with his own blood, unable to help. He had let it happen to her then. He wouldn't let anything happen to her again.
After a simple but relatively pleasant dinner, a soldier came to take Korra to Iroh's office. Asami did that surprised blink she had when Korra explained what it was about, then rolled her eyes and shook her head. Her smile was strange, exhausted. She said something too quiet to hear, then refused to repeat it. Still tired from the exertions of the afternoon, Korra hadn't pressed her.
As the soldier led Korra along one corridor and mounted some stairs, he kept stealing glances at her from the corner of his eye. He was about her age and had bright green eyes that flashed pretty obviously when he looked at her. Finally, when they came to the top of the stairs, Korra stopped and crossed her arms, frowning at him. "Alright. What?"
The soldier stood frozen with a panicked look on his face and then, finally, sighed. "I'm sorry Avatar Korra, I just… I heard you were at the attack on the first division and… I wonder if you saw what happened to my sister."
"Oh." Korra looked back down the stairs up which they'd come. She didn't remember much from that attack. Because she tried not to remember. Bombs exploding everywhere, steel twisting apart like foil, people screaming and vanishing into the water… She should have done more. She was the Avatar. She should have been able to do more.
Korra looked back at the soldier, who was biting his lip as he waited. It was too late for the fleet, but she could do this. "What did she look like?"
"Short black hair. Earthbender's uniform. She would have been on the flagship." His eyes dropped. "On deck, I think. It was her shift."
Korra thought, screwed up her face and really tried, but she couldn't remember the deck of the flagship – except for the explosion that had blasted the tower to flaming wreckage and sent it crashing down on that deck. Had this man's sister gotten out of the way? "I'm so sorry," Korra said, and she made herself look him in the eye. "I didn't see her."
The soldier was already nodding. "That's okay. I knew it was kind of a long shot." He tried to smile but that wasn't quite what happened to his face. "Thank you for trying anyway." He took a step to go on and Korra, after a moment's hesitation, followed.
The last corridor seemed to stretch on forever and then finally the soldier rapped on a door and a voice inside said, "Come." He opened the door and held it for her and Korra hesitated as she passed, sure that she should say something, some final bit of comfort or wisdom or anything really. But nothing came to her and she just stood there looking at the soldier who finally looked back at her. And he actually did smile, then. It was a tight smile, but a more successful attempt than the last.
"Avatar Korra," said Iroh. He had risen and held out a hand to the chair opposite his desk. "Thank you for coming. Please, have a seat."
Korra nodded and, with a final glance at her guide, turned into the room. As she settled into the chair – an ornate piece with a stiff cushion that didn't really match anything else in the office – Iroh dismissed the soldier by name. Private Cheng.
Iroh sat again and said something apologetic as he sifted through a few of the papers on his desk. Korra didn't really hear him. Abruptly, interrupting, she asked, "Do you know…? But I guess you've got a lot of soldiers and you really can't know them all by name, can you?"
Iroh's hands went still and he peered at her. He was frowning, but it didn't seem to be an overtly unhappy expression; it was like that was the natural state of his face. "Try me."
"Cheng's sister. He said she was stationed on your ship, so maybe…" Korra shrugged and stared at the papers arranged before him.
"Private Yune," Iroh said. He sat back in his chair, though his hands lingered on the desk as if glued there. "Five-year voluntary enlistee, like her brother. She was on active duty during the attack and purported herself bravely as far as I saw. No body was found… though, a lot of bodies haven't been found."
Korra's eyes widened. "How do you remember all of that about one soldier?"
"I wrote the letter to her family," Iroh said, then dropped his eyes. When he looked back up at Korra, he worked his jaw to one side, uncertain for just an instant. "But I admit that I've written a lot of letters to a lot of families. It was mostly Private Cheng that has made Private Yune so memorable. They looked alike. In the eyes."
Korra nodded, but her head felt like it was teetering on top of her neck so she stopped. "How many soldiers did you lose?"
"Three hundred ninety-six." The number came out of his mouth like the name of a close friend.
Korra felt sick. Hundreds of people dead and lost. Blasted and crushed and drowned right there, all around her. And she had just grabbed Iroh and fled. She was the Avatar. She should have done more to help those soldiers. Should have been able to do more. Should have—
Iroh hesitated, perhaps seeing the blood drain out of her face, and went on. "Several were able to survive in the wreckage until a rescue team could be sent, but it took full teams of water- and metalbenders to get them out. They had to open the ships up on the seabed…" He shook his head, straightening. "But that's not why you're here, Avatar Korra."
Korra watched, not sure how Iroh's hands could be that steady as he straightened a stack of papers and turned a few pages around so that she could look at them. There were numbers. A chart. All sketched in fine, precise lines. Korra blinked, definitely not ready for this sudden shift from trauma to math class. Iroh was talking, explaining something about reduced Equalist support but a lot of false information. Underground bunkers with nothing but junk in them. Rallies described by witnesses who later disappeared. Fruitless searches in the mountains.
Korra could only think about those torpedoes that had zipped past her, barely missing as she twisted in the water but then blasting open the hull of a ship behind her. She could have done something then. There were a dozen things she could have done. But she had just twisted around to avoid them and let them go. Let it all go.
She jolted and looked up from the pages splattered with information to find Iroh frowning at her – and now he really did look unhappy. "Am I boring you?" he asked.
"No. It's just… I just hadn't realized."
Iroh peered down his nose at the figures on his desk. "A lot of people did expect the Equalist movement to fall apart without Amon. It's a common enough mistake."
"No, I mean the fleet." Korra touched her forehead with the tips of her fingers, dropped her hand. "I, I panicked. I didn't even—"
"Stop." Iroh held up a hand, shaking his head.
"I could have done so much differently. I could have saved so many lives and instead I just—"
"Avatar Korra!" His hand landed hard on her shoulder and she finally looked up. Iroh was leaning over the desk, his other hand splayed across those figures. His yellow eyes were wide, his teeth bared. But as she met his hard stare, his lips pursed and he withdrew back to his seat, straightening. "I'm sorry," he said. "I had almost forgotten. You're not…" He shut his eyes and some harsh emotion yanked at his jaw. When he looked back at Korra, though, his stare was firm but not unsympathetic.
"War is brutal, Korra. People die. Sometimes a different strategy would change things, spare lives, but we can't always go into battle with the best strategy. Mistakes are awful, but they happen; as a leader, it's your job to never repeat them. But right now, we need to talk about what we're going to do to combat the Equalists. Are you able to do that?"
Korra stared at Iroh, the way he sat so straight and watched her so evenly. He would have seemed cold, but… there was the way he had said that number, the way it came so precisely from his mouth. There was Private Cheng, whose loss Iroh knew so well.
But there was also something in his eyes that Korra wasn't sure she entirely understood. He cared very much about whatever answer she gave to this question. Whatever she said, it would determine everything that was to come. Was she able to talk about Equalists right now, knowing that she had failed to save almost four hundred people?
Korra hung her head and pressed her fingers to the soft wrinkles between her brows. She had failed to save them, but the Equalists were the ones who had flown the planes. And she found it, that spark in her chest that always drove her on, that made her sit down and cry for life instead of jumping off that cliff. She was stubbornly alive at her root, and stubbornly wanted to move forward. And stubbornly, fiercely, she wanted to crush the Equalists into pulp for all the pain and destruction they'd caused.
"It's alright, Korra," Iroh was saying. His voice was quiet, but taut with all the tension of a rope holding up a speared whale. "This wasn't my best idea. You've… had a long day."
"I'm not weak." Korra sat up in her chair and gripped the armrests.
Iroh blinked at her, thick brows raised. "I didn't say you were."
She squared her shoulders and snatched a handful of papers off the desk, frowning at him. "Then let's do this."
Iroh watched the Avatar pour over those charts and numbers and wanted to reach across the desk and hug her. Or clap her on the shoulder, more like. That was much more appropriate for an officer. But she wasn't a soldier. She was here as his equal, an advisor more than anything. So perhaps a hug was more appropriate after all. She probably hugged hard, with arms like those.
Iroh shook his head to clear that thought away and frowned down at the papers remaining on his desk. What was he thinking? Hugging the Avatar? That was entirely out of line. She possessed a spirit so old that he couldn't even imagine it. He had relics in his pocket from less than a century ago, worn with handling and age already, and that was just a single cycle of the Avatar. Civilizations rose and crumbled and the Avatar went on walking the world.
"What's this, ah, blue piece of pie represent?" She asked, peering up at him.
Iroh squinted. "Food sources still available to the city. It should be labeled."
"It totally isn't." Korra looked back at the chart. "Oh."
Iroh very nearly said I told you so, but restrained himself. Barely. It had been easy to forget today, seeing her in action and then having her call him out for arguing with her boyfriend, that Korra was still a teenager. Avatar Aang had done amazing things as a twelve-year-old and despite all of his grandfather's stories about hog-monkeys and giant fish, Aang always appeared in Iroh's imagination as a little adult, soaring off to war on his glider. A lot like Tenzin, actually. Minus the beard.
If Iroh had been thinking a bit more objectively, he would not have told Korra the death toll on the first division. Breaking terrible news like that was a shock on anyone's system and she was young and she truly had had a long day. The way she had practically fallen into his visitor's chair, the vague weariness in her eyes; she was exhausted. Iroh could see it. But he had been confident. She had handled seeing so many of Amon's victims so well that he had just assumed that she would be prepared for the answer when she asked the question. But she hadn't been.
And yet, here she was.
Korra narrowed her eyes at something on the page and worked her jaw over to one side, mouth pinched tight. "This can't be right. How can the city be functioning on a tenth of the electricity it used to need?"
"Cycling power-outs," Iroh said. He braced his chin in one palm and his elbow on the arm of the chair. "Districts are informed when they will have power and when they won't. Everyone is encouraged to conserve electricity. We distributed pamphlets." He sighed. "It's the best we can do until there are enough firebenders capable of producing lightning who can keep the mills running full-time again. Until then, it's just a dozen or so United Forces firebenders running this entire city." And Iroh himself, at least four morning out of the week, though he wasn't about to admit to that.
Korra nodded, but her face scrunched up. "That seems like a bad move on Amon's part, disabling the city's power source."
"Actually, if his goal was to make people unhappy, it was pretty clever."
She looked up at him, still frowning, so Iroh went on.
"Amon wanted a full-blown revolution. Not just in this city, but throughout the world. In order for a rebellion to rise up, people have to be really unhappy with the status quo. And if he had kept the benders working in service professions, the majority of people would have been comfortable enough that they wouldn't have felt compelled to reach out from the city and expand the revolution. Without power or clean water or working sewers, things would have gotten pretty desperate here."
"But couldn't that have just as easily backfired?" Korra asked, waving the chart idly. "I mean, wouldn't a lot of people have complained that things were better when bending powered the city?"
"Maybe. But I believe Hiroshi Sato had some major plans for new infrastructure works underway. Two of the city's lightning mills have been completely dismantled, but whatever they were planning to build there is a mystery to us. The blueprints all vanished when we retook the city." Iroh hesitated, peering down at his desk, and decided not to mention how truly unhelpful Sato had been. That could wait. "But if you're caught up on the resource situation, we really need to discuss what the Equalists are up to now."
"Done," Korra said, slapping the papers back on his desk. "What kind of attacks have you seen?"
She was a little more forceful with his documents than Iroh might have liked. He straightened them, frowning, and then said, "None at all."
"None?" Korra sat forward, now, hands braced on her splayed knees. It was some pretty unladylike posture, to be sure. But Iroh couldn't find it in himself to disapprove of the Avatar's comportment. That just seemed silly.
He could, however, easily disapprove of her inattentiveness. "As I was trying to tell you earlier, there have been a lot of informants and anonymous tips. Something is definitely going on under the surface, but we can't pin it down anywhere. We don't even know who the new leader is."
Korra sat back again, looking completely deflated. "How are we supposed to fight them if we can't find them?" She lifted a hand before her and let it slap down on her thigh, useless.
"I believe that is their thought exactly," Iroh said. He leaned forward with his forearms on his desk and splayed out his hands on the papers. "They are working from the shadows more than ever without Amon to lead them, because they are trying to create a different kind of movement."
This was where being a General became truly exciting. Iroh stood from his desk and paced slowly behind it. "Amon wanted to make a war on the benders in which he was the weapon. Now that he's gone, the Equalists have to be reevaluating that strategy. Yes, they have weapons and techniques that can take us down one-on-one, but we have weapons too, and greater numbers than before." He spun on his heel, linking his hands behind him as he paced on. "And that is what they must have to fight us, Korra. Numbers. We are not playing the same game anymore. The city is in shambles and my instinct tells me that Equalist support is rising. If we don't do some serious damage control really fast, the Equalist attitude toward benders will be predominant in Republic City. Then we really will have a problem."
When he turned back to Korra, Iroh found her staring at him with wide eyes. "What kind of damage control?" she asked at last.
"First things first, power and water." Iroh returned to his chair, his mouth turning up in a smile. "And thanks to you, that's easily within reach."
Korra sat a little straighter. "Got it. What do we do about the food shortages?"
"Taxes have supported a lot of food supply for the city so far, but that can't go on forever. We're fighting for public opinion now, after all, and taxing people won't make them think better of benders." Iroh's smile stretched out like a stiff old man. "We have to get more creative on that one."
Mako crept through the hallways, listening at door after door and scrambling to get out of the way of the soldiers who marched around, running errands. There weren't a lot of them. Patrols were focused around entry points and the few soldiers Mako evaded mostly seemed to be carrying dishes back to whatever kitchen they'd set up. One had a slip of paper and, thinking it might be a wire to Iroh, Mako followed that guy up three flights of stairs only to find out the message was for Bumi. The commander's voice, what little of it escaped out around the soldier standing in the door, wasn't its usual boisterous self.
"…that I'll still have no interest in the post, regardless of how often they ask. Wait, wait – they pay for this, right? By the letter? Then make it 'I shall perpetuate my continual and dedicated abstinence from partaking in such most egregious…'"
Mako moved on. There was no time for spying on Tenzin's brother. He was getting close. If Bumi was on this level, then Iroh probably was too and it was vital that he found Korra before anything happened to her. He'd lost a lot of time waiting for Bolin to fall asleep – although the earthbender was still messed up from South Pole daylight and besides probably had the earliest bedtime of any sixteen-year-old alive. Still, it had felt like forever as he lay there in the dark, remembering that training room, Amon's voice, Korra's helpless cry.
Mako turned a corner and slipped down another passageway – and then he heard it, Korra's voice, muffled by a door midway along the hall. He'd nearly gone right past it. Creeping closer to the door, he crouched and turned his ear toward the keyhole. He couldn't make out her specific words, just her tone. She sounded tense, uncertain. Mako clenched his fists. Not too late, but getting there.
Then Iroh spoke, and his voice did carry, mostly. "… how long does it usually last?"
Korra said a couple of words, sounding a little annoyed.
"That's nothing. In the Fire… is often extended on into the peak of… by playing up rivalries and anticipation for the climactic… real frenzy…"
Mako, eyes wide in horror, pressed his ear and one hand against the door for balance. Was he too late, after all? Korra was speaking again and she sounded… she sounded almost excited, now. Was he hearing correctly? No way was he hearing correctly. Mako rubbed his chest through his workman's jacket and pressed harder against the door.
"Yes," Iroh was saying now. It sounded like he was smiling just a little. Arrogant son of a… "…only recently noticed you have a very well-built… I imagine it can accommodate a pretty sizeable… How many would you say?"
Korra made a thoughtful sound and paused, then gave some estimate. Mako could practically picture her shrugging and waving one hand. No way was she talking about what he thought she was talking about. They hadn't even gone past kissing yet! Just, no way.
"Excellent." Iroh was making some quiet comments now and Mako screwed up his face and stopped rubbing his chest, listening hard. "…think carefully about your decision, Korra. It will inevitably be much more difficult for you that it was in the past. Tarrlok may have needed you only on certain occasions but as we have already discussed, I will be placing far more demands on your time and expecting a great deal more active participation."
Mako's mouth fell open. Tarrlok? No. Just, just-
"I already told you I was in," Korra said, a little loudly now. Mako was shaking his head. "And I have no doubt the rest of my team will be too."
Wait, what was that supposed to—?
But as Mako's head jerked up in surprise, it bumped the doorknob, knocking the latch loose. The door swung open under his weight and he spilled onto the floor before a very surprised Korra and an instantly irritated-looking Iroh.
AN: Cliffhangery! Back on the scene! Now I have to sleep! x.x