“Hey, Korra—now that the championship is over, we really should go shopping together. Come on, it’ll be my treat.” Asami’s smile was perfect, but in the hesitation the Avatar showed, that flash of uncertainty and secret guilt on her face, Asami’s suspicions were confirmed.
It was silly to think Asami wouldn’t notice. She wasn’t a child, and this was not her first relationship. It would be silly to think she was incapable of noticing her boyfriend taking special notice of the Avatar.
“Um, sure,” Korra said after some discomfort and trying not to look at the boys. There, in the muscles of his neck, signs Mako was wondering if she’d pieced it together.
“I’ve been meaning to ask you for a while, but with Councilman Tarlok’s task force and the Championships, I didn’t want to put anything more on your plate,” Asami said as she led Korra out of the rec room.
From what she could tell, Korra was guilty but not… too guilty. She was sorry for something she didn’t want to admit, rather than being eaten up for doing something really wrong.
Asami had had one or two previous boyfriends (she hesitated to even use the term) who had sneaked around behind her back. But they were fellow university students. The signs she saw in Mako weren’t even masked. The way he noticed Bolin talking to Korra after that semifinal match, watching them in peripheral vision so Asami had had to pull his face back to look at her. Lacking in subtlety. The way he promised to take her to Kuang’s Cuisine of all places after the championship? That showed guilt—disproportional repayment always showed guilt.
“Are you scared?” he panted, his breath impossibly hot against her mouth.
As she raked her nails along his stomach, which caused him to shiver, she answered, in a low, tight whisper, “Terrified.”
He didn’t close the gap between them so much as he collapsed it, engulfing her in the circle of his arms and holding her so close, he could feel the frantic tattoo of her heart against his. In that moment, they weren’t the same, but as they trembled with the terror of the unknown and the rush of something new, they were close enough.
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She runs into Mako the next day at the market, where he’s buying Bolin’s favourite dumplings from the usual roadside stand, hair mussed from another long day at the power plant.
All people leave slowly, Asami tells herself.
Hurry up, she thinks.
“Wait. Mako shot you down and then you went out with me and then you kissed him anyway?”
Korra planted her face against the table. “Thanks for making me feel like an idiot.”
“No! I just… I guess I don’t understand. Why you didn’t tell me right then, if you knew you weren’t over Mako.”
“Because he was being a jerk!” Korra shouted, probably far louder than she should have in the public restaurant, picking her head up and just barely restraining herself from shoving away from the table and standing up.
Because you were being cute and smiley and I didn’t want to let you down or anything when I wasn’t planning on going after him any more at that point. I didn’t want to ruin your night, too.” Slowly, as she spoke, she quieted back down, and there was a slightly hesitant pause before she added the last part.
There’s nothing. Nothing catches, no trickle of other-worldly energy, no force and grace weighted with centuries of age. Korra breathes in, breathes out. Still nothing. Her fists are pressing so hard she feels like she’ll break her fingers, and her teeth are clenched, and there’s nothing. She pushes and pulls, pushes and pulls, feels the ground under her feet rattle with her anger; her blood boils in desperation, and her breath chokes in her throat, and there’s nothing.
Her eyes fly open, and she turns, seeking Tenzin out in the crowd. “I can’t find it!” she gasps, before she has a moment to think about whether or not she can admit this on city-side television, before she thinks about any of the implications. “Tenzin,” and her words are breathless like she’s forgotten how to airbend, “I can’t find the Avatar State.”
It’s, like, impossible to be a fan of Mako’s today. Or yesterday. Or the day before. But whatever, she has to be about the peace, the harmony, and the extreme sensibility of her supposed-nature. She promised to play nice for Bolin, anyway.
But after Tahno, she is so not in the mood (she feels pretty guilty, okay?) and for once, in the fast open space that is the Island, she just wants ten minutes to herself to blow things up. Problem is it never works out that way.
“You’re not okay,” Mako calls.
“Ugh,” she groans, her hands dropping to her sides. The footing is lost. The panels are on the other side of the house; today she’s usually actual dummies that she actually just wants to set on fire. “Seriously, you need to work on your terrible timing. I am now convinced it’s a thing.”
“You’re not okay,” he repeats.