Collapsed Dreams

Part 3: Shattered Beyond Belief

Somewhere in the midst of wedding him, Korra had forgotten about how fast the masked man really was, how cunning and slimy he could be; that's why she so utterly surprised when her rock cloaked fists strike nothing but air. She freezes for a second, a statue in the middle of a contained battle, utterly confused, because he was right in front of her and -how the hell did I manage to lose him that fast?- but her confusion is quickly overtaken by blinding, mind-numbing fear as a hand wraps tightly around her shoulder. She whips around, not thinking just doing, as flames dance precariously across her fingertips ready to strike- to kill. But it's not the red and white mask she expected, nor is it a boy with ocher eyes and emotional scars. Instead, it is Bolin, ignoring her ignited hands as he pulls her across the room hastily, dodging as much chaos as possible, his hands wrapped much too firmly around her elbow because, of course, he expects a fight.

She's confused- so, so confused- because everything is falling apart around her and all she can think is - why now? It takes her far too long to realize their destination, a door that leads to a road that leads to safety, and she's offended. Because regardless of what anybody says, this has always been her battle, her job, her destiny. What the hell do you think you're doing, she wants to scream, because he has no right to drag her away from this like she's some helpless child, and she'll be damned if she leaves this battle without a few new scars.

She pulls away from him, her jaw set in a firm line that clearly shows her absolute dissatisfaction. His eyes beg her silently to obey, to not be stubborn just this once, as his hands reach out again this time with more power, more purpose, and she realizes, with shock, that he's going to drag her out if that's what it takes. But she's far too fast for him, ducking out of his grasp and tearing across the chapel towards where she thinks Amon must be.

Her dress bundles around her feet, slowing her down substantially; she stops momentarily to burn the fabric to oblivion from the thighs down and tear the veil haphazardly out of her hair, causing a flurry of wild waves to splay across her shoulder. What a sight I must be, she thinks as she kicks off her impractical shoes and continues barefoot across the wood floor, thankful for the calluses that cover her soles

She catches sight of Tenzin and a man she doesn't quite recognize locked in battle with half a dozen equalists, and she's about to go help them when the first bolo whizzes past her face, and she somehow finds herself surrounded.

Her muscles tense as adrenaline rushes through her veins, and suddenly all that's left in the world is her and five equalist scum.

She wastes no time in sending solid rock at the face of the one nearest to her, forcing the earth forward with enough pressure to crack his mask and send him flying back, knocking him out instantly. Well that was easy, she thinks cockily, her confidence rising as she knocks another one to the ground with a sweep of her legs and a charring blast of fire. Her opponent falling in a heap at her feet as she swings around to stop an oncoming jab, determined to escape this battle with chi intact. She grabs the equalist's wrist and uses her brute strength to swing him into a nearby pillar, barely wincing at the sound of breaking bones. Flames light up her hand as she turns and lunges towards another, dodging his bolas expertly, not even wincing as one grazes her ribcage. She uses firebending to propel herself above him and land directly behind him, weaving her feet with his in an attempt to trip him up. He lands on his stomach at her feet, and she quickly shackles his hands and feet together with earth.

She smirks to herself, standing over the restrained man, already basking in her small victory. She's so caught up in her own confidence, she somehow manages to forget completely about the fifth equalist, the one that stands in her shadow with malice in his eyes, the one who lights up a Kali stick and jabs it into her back as hard as he can, smirking at the animalistic sounds she makes.

She falls to her knees, her body folding in on herself, completely at the mercy of the electricity the rushes through her veins. She tries breathing through it, like Asami taught them all to do, her fingernails digging desperately into the hardwood floor, but she can't seem to hold back the noises, the grunts and growls, that escape her throat. All she can hear is the sounds her mouth is unwillingly making and the crackle of the electricity filling her head, and for a second- or was it a lifetime- she's sure her head is going to explode. She feels the beginning of unconsciousness creeping over her, numbing the pain, and she's not sure if she's relieved or absolutely terrified because the only logical successor seems to be death.

She's about to give into the darkness that creeps into the corners of her vision, but then it all stops as blood suddenly rushes to her head, and the sounds of battle flood her ears once again. Her hands lift off the ground shakily, grabbing her stomach before she heaves forward, emptying what little she had eaten onto the floor in front of her, gagging until there is nothing left to bring up and then gagging some more. She knows she has to pull herself together, to get to her feet and save the world like Aang did before her, but she can't help but take one selfish second to pretend that this isn't really her war, and she isn't really a half-baked avatar in training. It doesn't work- it never does.

She pulls herself to her feet, her limbs shaking like those of a newborn animal, and, for a second, she's sure she's going to fall on her face, but somehow she manages to steady herself and maneuver her way to a pillar, using it to regain her bearings. She spots the bastard who nearly killed her, sprawled across the floor at the end of a pew, the work of airbending. Thanks Tenzin, she thinks as she approaches the unconscious man. Some part of her, the part that genuinely scares her, hopes he's alive, hopes that she'll get the chance to kill him slowly and watch him suffer, hopes she can laugh at his pain like he laughed at hers, but, judging by the way her feet are sticking to the red puddles on the ground, that's not the case.

Her senses are muddled, dulled by the electric abuse she had received, but somehow, she has enough sense to turn herself around and dodge the electrified glove that swings expertly towards her. She ducks randomly underneath another blow, barely eluding the glove as it skims the tips of her hair, leaving her with charred ends. She stumbles back clumsily, dodging blow-after-blow until she's backed into the corner.

She lashes out, dropping her defensive act in turn for a more hands-on technique, swinging her leg in a flaming arch. It drives her opponent back a few feet, giving her just enough room to fake around him and jab her fist into the sensitive spot right underneath his neck before kicking him in the back, dead center, forcing him into the corner and using the surrounding brick to shackle him there. He swears at her, struggling helplessly against his restraints, but she pays no mind to him, ducking behind a propped door to catch her breath and scout the area for Amon.

For some reason, her eyes lock on the ornate doorway, the one that leads out to the stormy mountainside, and she somehow knows that's where she needs to go. She glances around, finding her path conveniently clear and bolts across the room, slipping out into the darkness before anybody has the chance to notice.

At least that's what she thinks as her bare feet begin to trace bigger, more prominent footprints in the damp earth, determined to find Amon before the trail goes cold. The rain beats down above her, soaking her instantly, but that's okay because now she's in her element.

She hears him before she sees him, even above the sound of rain beating against the earth. His footsteps, too light, too measured, race after hers, and she freezes, waiting for his hand to wrap pseudo-intimately around her shoulder and try to pull her back to safety, try to drag her out of a battle she's already far too invested in. Let him try, she thinks aggressively to herself, stiffening her shoulders, and ignoring the sting of the rain on her raw back.

The physical contact never comes.

"If you're going after him, I'm coming with you," Mako says too calmly, his voice carrying from a spot directly behind her as he reaches his hand forward, attempting to twine it with hers, but she pulls her fingers away too fast, whipping around to face him with nothing but rage in her eyes. She's so damn angry, angry because he still doesn't see that he's her only weakness: the only person that's ever made her second guess herself, compromise herself, and he doesn't seem to understand that that day in the woods would have ended a hell of a lot differently if he didn't try to play hero, to save her even though she's the one who's supposed to do the saving. It's all so clear to her now, clear that this is a fight she has to finish on her own: no heroes, no knights in shining red armor. Just her and Amon.

"Go away, Mako" she says, no hint of desperate teenage affection left in her hardened voice, "this isn't your fight. It hasn't been for a long time."

For a split second, he looks hurt, like she's just slapped him across the face, his eyes widened with shock, but then those walls come up again, stronger than ever, leaving his expression unreadable.

She turns to leave, to push forward through the muck and rain, but before she can even step forward, his hand wraps around her wrist, far too possessively for her taste,

"I'm not letting you go alone," he growls over the wind, his fingers tightening around her wrist, in yet another showing of heroic courage- Like that worked out so well the first time, she thinks mockingly.

"I don't need your permission, City Boy" she whispers, venom tainting her pretty voice as she rips her wrist away from him before whipping around and stomping away. She begs him silently not to follow, not to play hero and just let her go, but obviously that's not how he's wired because all too fast he's on her flank again. She feels his fingers grip her arm once again, pulling her back a few steps.

It must be uninhibited adrenaline that causes her too whip around and push him into a nearby tree, not even flinching as his skull snaps back and collides with the bark.

She hears him swearing incoherently to nobody in particular as he tries to wrap his head around what just happened, and she takes advantage of his momentary confusion, using the time to freeze him to the tree with messy, but efficient, waterbending.

"You'll thank me for this someday," she whispers before disappearing into the shadows, the sound of relentless rain replacing Mako's desperate pleas.

Oh Spirits, do I hope I'm right.

Her feet squelch in the mud, the muted sound of rain pounding against her ears as she pushes forward, further and further into the woods.

By the time she spots him, standing like some sort of delirious spirit in the moonlit clearing, she's lost sense of time, of direction, and she knows it's now or never. Tonight she will either kill or be killed - either way, it's too soon.

He doesn't say anything, nor does he turn to face her; he shows no sign of knowing her presence, but judging by the way his fingers twitch impatiently, he knows far more than he'd ever let on. She stops on the edge of the clearing, sinking immediately into the mud as she stands. Waiting. Watching.

"Glad you could make it, Korra," he says mockingly; her name sounds perverted rolling off his lips like that, and she realizes, with a start, that he's never actually said it before, not alone at least. It's always been preceded by Avatar, and, suddenly, she feels the change in the atmosphere. Whatever one-sided romance has been developing over the last month, that feeling akin to affection that seems to have haunted precariously above them, has been replaced by hatred, a poison so deeply rooted it seems to have manifested itself to the area around him, as the trees loom eerily above them and the rain quiets to a deceivingly gentle patter.

When he turns to face her, she's surprised to see the mask has been discarded, probably six feet under mud by now. What she's not surprised to see is his complete lack of scarring nor the way the raindrops dance a little too perfectly around his cloaked figure. Maybe she's always known deep down, known he was far too slick to be anything but a complete and absolute hypocrite.

"Nice look for you," she deadpans back, putting on a brave facade, "Since when did you get rid of that famous scar of yours."

He laughs, the slick kind of laughter that legitimately makes her feel dirty, like it would take weeks just to wash away the feeling of her skin crawling.

"You obviously didn't come her to talk," he says smoothly, stepping closer to her, rapidly closing the gap between them until he's merely an arms length away, "Tell me, Korra, why have you come."

She wants to tell him to stop using her damn name like that, to stop lessening its meaning with his poison tongue that preaches nothing but destruction, but instead, she plays along, moving a step closer and standing on her tiptoes as she presses her lips to his ear.

"Why, I've come to kill you, Amon."

They share a second of intimate silence, pregnant with tension, far too close to be appropriate given the scenario, neither quite willing to make the first move. She feels his hand twitch a little, a fraction of a centimeter, and that's all it takes to make her fly backwards, just as an ice dagger whizzes past her face.

"I'd like to see you try," he smirks, sending dagger after dagger towards her. His aim is precise, only ever missing her by mere millimeters, and she's forced to take the defense as she dodges and swerves between them, cursing as one grazes her arm. She stomps her foot, erecting a wall of earth in front of her and sends it forward, aiming to knock Amon right off his feet, but he clears the hurdle effortlessly, sending a tidal wave of water at her before his feet even touch the ground. Fire coats her palm as she cuts through the wave messily, creating a cloud of steam that blinds her momentarily. She launches flames forward relentlessly not quite sure where she is aiming anymore. He's too damn fast for her, ducking and dodging, snaking his way closer and closer until he's close enough to reach out and grab her arm, twisting it behind her back painfully as he wraps his free hand around her throat, blocking her airway. She gasps for air, struggling against his hold, kicking and scratching without much result, finally resorting to spitting weakened flames over her shoulder, despite the burns they inflict on the back of her throat. They lick at his face precariously, teasing the pigment of his flawless skin, threatening to legitimately burn him. He stumbles back a little, and she uses the opportunity to her advantage, summoning a large lump of earth and sending it at his stomach as hard as she can, knocking the air right out of him. He falls backwards with a thump, the mud immediately forming around his body like a second skin as she stands in the background gasping in air.

She summons rock to her hand, forming it into a makeshift dagger and makes her way to the slightly stunned Amon.

She thought this would be easier, taking his life, but she can't help the single second of hesitation that freezes her limbs and leaves her confused. Maybe there's a better way to do this, she ponders.

That's all the time Amon needs to take control of her body, bloodbending her into a gasping mess. She struggles against his hold, fighting the feeling of helplessness that comes with her body being violated in such a way, but his bending is just to practiced, and he forces her back first into the mud with a mere flick of his wrist.

"Such a shameful way to ruin a beautiful dress," he tsks above her, kicking her rib cage hard and tightening his grip on her body. She groans as her blood burns and her head pounds, her world spinning like a carousel, as he delivers yet another well-placed kick, this one connecting with her face. She manages to turn her head back just in time to see the dagger he pulls dangerously from his robe, the one that reflects the moonlight like a mirror. He stands over her, the deceptively beautiful weapon pointed decidedly at her heart.

"Goodbye, Korra," he laughs as he drives the dagger down.

Something about the moment, the way his eyes glow mirthlessly in the moonlight, pumps her adrenaline faster, and she manages to fight his hold just enough to roll to the left. The dagger missed her heart completely, digging instead through her rib cage and popping out of her back. She growls trying to ignore the flashing pain for just one more minute as she takes advantage of her freed limbs, using a block of earth to trip a befuddled Amon before shackling his hands and feet to the ground.

She pulls herself into an upright touching her stomach shakily, her fingers dragging across the dagger handle with muted confusion. She hears Amon groan, struggling against her weak bonds, realizing shakily that this might just be her last chance to make a difference as she crawls over to where Amon lays facing the moon. She straddles his hips, groaning in pain.

She grips the handles of the dagger painfully, flinching as the shock rolls through her body, and tries not to think too hard as she clamps her eyes shut and pulls it out in one swift, measured motion, groaning as it exits her body caked in her blood.

Her hands shake as she moves the dagger towards his heart, and she can feel the pull of his bloodbending again, desperate and sloppy in the face of defeat because underneath that rock-hard exterior, even he is afraid to die. She fights against the pull, calling upon Avatar Kyoshi to give her the strength to do what must be done.

"Spirit's forgive me," she says as she raises the dagger above her head, ready to bring it down at any second, and she's about to do it, to kill him like she should have had the courage to do a long time ago, but something makes her stop, it's not fear this time. It's humanity; it's Aang whispering in her ear and telling her what needs to be done; it's the way she feels as the dagger falls out of her hands and her fingertips find his forehead and chest, her eyes lighting up the night sky as his bending disappears forever, and somehow, once her eyes return back to their normal color, and she realizes just what she has done, everything feels alright, like the universe is at peace. Even as she crawls off of Amon, a bloody heap of flesh, and collapses on the ground next to him, drained. Even as she takes Aang's hand and follows him all too willingly the Spirit World. Even as the rain stops and the world moves on without her.

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That's how Mako finds them some time later, Amon shackled to the ground screaming to the spirits incoherently, teling them that they'd made a mistake, that he was trying to fix the world not destroy it, and Korra lying, limp and lifeless, in a puddle of her own blood. No matter how long he lives, Mako doesn't think he'll ever forget the way the moon reflected off her unseeing eyes, blue and glassy like a stagnant ocean. Or the way her mouth is twisted, just barely, into the beginning of a smile, bruises splashed hauntingly across her face

And when he cradles her cold body to his chest, begging the spirits to bring her back, to take him instead, his screams mixing eerily with Amon's, he swears he can still hear her laughter, booming euphorically above him in the form of residual thunder, the wind tickling his teaar-stained cheek, ghosting across his skin with a tenderness that feels far too paranormal.

He wants to kill Amon with his bare hands, to strangle him and beat him until his eyes are as blank as Korra's, but he can't bring himself to undo her last moments, to make her accomplishments null, so instead he screams and screams and screams until he can't feel his throat and the sun lights up the sky once again.

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And this time, only one of us is going to come out alive, she had thought to herself cockily.

She couldn't have been more right.

Author's Note: Well, I am very happy to say that this story is officially complete! It's taken me such a long time to do, and I really hope you enjoyed it. As always, reviews are highly appreciated and will help me to produce better-quality work, so love it or hate it, I want to know why. Have a great day!