She ran from him.
And it hurt. Because he knew that she didn't understand. Because he knew that she didn't believe him when he'd told her that it didn't matter if she was the Avatar or not, that she didn't believe him when he'd told him that he loved her. And he loved her. He did.
He needed her to believe him.
It was too cold with her gone.
Mako heard the crunch of snowy footsteps behind him, and he tensed but did not turn around. He stared at the open gate, at the stark, snowy field that lay in front of him, at her absence that burned his cheeks.
"We need to be patient with her," Tenzin said. Mako glanced off to the side. "It will take time for her to accept what has happened." But he didn't want to be patient. He couldn't wait. He'd been pushing her away for so long, hurt her so many times, and now when she finally, truly needed him, she was gone and he was left alone, staring at nothing. If she were in his position, she'd wouldn't be standing here waiting. So that's when he knew.
He wouldn't let her run.
She had to believe him.
He said nothing as his feet slid back in the snow, and he started to run, run to her. Tenzin shouted his name, calling him back, but he didn't listen, refused to listen to reason and sense because he had told her that he was there for her, and he was going to be there, right there. For her. He sprinted out of the compound, through the gate. The snow was nearly blinding it was so crisp and white, but he followed Naga's tracks. His footprints were tiny in comparison.
Mako's lungs burned as they sucked in the freezing air, but he had to go faster, he had to catch up to her. His side started to cramp, and his face stung, but he needed to be there for her.
He'd tell her all the reasons why he loved her. He'd tell her that she was brave and selfless and passionate and strong and amazing. He'd tell her that she was stubborn and impatient and still drove him crazy. He'd tell her she was beautiful. And he'd tell her that she was the Avatar, with or without her bending. And he loved her, with or without her bending. He loved her. He loved Korra, and he needed to find her because she needed to understand; she needed to believe him.
So he ran, arms pumping.
And he ran, feet flying.
He saw the ocean first, dark and wide as it expanded out to the horizon. He saw Naga second as she stared up at the sky, and then he saw Korra, high in the air, and he slid to a stop.
He'd found her.
The elements rippled out of her in bursts, all four of them, strong and unyielding because nothing could stop her. Nothing. And Mako knew this.
And when she landed and sensed his presence, turning to him, he'd lost all the words that he had planned. All he had left to give her was his heart and a smile.
He walked to her but she was running to him now, and his arms were open, waiting and wanting. He wrapped them around her tightly as he lifted her, as she threw her arms around him, spinning free. Free.
He set her down, and she rested her hand on his cheek, her fingers warm, burning.
They'd been running for so long. But they didn't need to run anymore. Because they knew now. They both knew.
"I love you, too," she said.
And when they kissed, Mako felt it, in her lips, in her breath.
She believed him