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"By Your Side"
Chapter information

Smoke and Mirrors



Written by

Lady Lostris



Release date

February 14, 2016

Word count


Next chapter

Halfway Gone

"By Your Side" is the first chapter of Smoke and Mirrors, picking up in the episode "The Last Stand" right after Wu left for the dance floor at Varrick and Zhu Li's wedding.

Chapter 1 - By Your Side

Korra's gaze roved over Mako's mummified arm before reaching his eyes. "How's the arm?"

"Much better." His easy-going tone soothed the guilt that had burdened her ever since she had discovered his injury.

"The words 'thank you' don't feel big enough for what you did. But I honestly don't know what else to say."

"You don't need to say anything. I want you to know, I'll follow you into battle, no matter how crazy things get. I've got your back ... and I always will."

A grateful, affectionate smile lit up Korra's face. Mako had easily become one of her closest, most loyal friends and while his statement did not surprise her, it was still something to hear him say it out loud. As a comfortable silence befell them, their attention drifted to the dance floor, where Wu was engaged in a flamboyant version of the Dancing Badgermole with a somewhat reluctant Asami.

"Speaking of having someone forever, when are you going to make your move on Asami?"

"Hmmmh?" It took Korra a lot of effort to tear her eyes away from the way Asami's dress flared like flames as Wu twirled her around. Noticing the knowing look in Mako's eyes and the content smirk on his lips, she snapped to attention and cleared her throat. "I'm sorry, what?"

The smirk readily grew to a full blown smile. "Your move on Asami. When are you planning on making it?"

"Move? What move? Why would I make a move on Asami? Haha, we—we're just best friends." Looking everywhere but at Mako, Korra was painfully aware that even her permanently tanned skin failed to hide the blush she felt burning on her cheeks.

Mako could not stop his laughter from bubbling to the surface at the sight of his flustered friend. "Korra, you're a lot of things, but 'subtle' has never been among them. You don't have to be a detective—though I am—to notice how much you like Asami. And I don't mean that in a 'you are best friends'-kind of way."

If she thought her cheeks were burning before, Korra was fairly certain her skin was about to melt off. "What—haha, you are—you don't—we aren't ... I-I mean, I'm not—we're not—I—euh ..." She sighed in defeat and lowered her gaze. "How long have you known?"

"Oh, a while now. I had my suspicions for years, but the way you two acted around each other after you came back ... you were so in sync, it was as if you had never left."

Korra looked up in surprise as Mako continued to relay in more detail all the gestures that had occurred between her and Asami, most notably her emotional dependence on the heiress. This was not how she had expected him to react. After all, he had dated both of them in the past, but the way he talked about their interactions now ... He was completely calm and at ease with the idea of her and Asami. He accepted it. He accepted them. And what was more, he seemed proud of them. Happy. It was weird and wonderful at the same time.

"Earth to Korra!" The gentle nudge against her arm snapped her out of her reverie. "Hehe, there you are, where'd you go?"

"Sorry about that." Korra smiled sheepishly at him. "You have no idea how relieved I am to hear you be so ... accepting."

Mako was taken aback. "Why wouldn't I be accepting?"

The somewhat hurt and confused flicker in his eyes made Korra chuckle. "Come on, Mister Detective, look at the history between the three of us. You weren't exactly the smoothest after you and her broke up. And we broke up. And you and Asami fooled around again. And then we broke up—again. You even saluted us at one point."

"Right ..." Mako cleared his throat and mumbled a quick, "sorry 'bout that."

"Nah, it's fine." Her bubbling laughter floated through the air before Korra took on a more serious tone. "I'm just glad that we eventually managed to get through all that as a group."

"Yeah, we did, didn't we? Though I'd like to think we all became closer despite—or maybe even because of—that mess." Korra nodded and smiled, an action Mako mirrored easily, though his smile grew wider when he noticed that her eyes involuntarily darted toward Asami once again. "So, as one of your best friends, I'd like to bring this conversation back to you and Asami and what you're going to do about it." Although her surprised reaction had been expected, that did not make her double-take any less fun.

"Will you drop it already?!" Korra snapped in a whisper while frantically scanning the crowd to verify that no one was paying attention to them. When Mako opened his mouth to speak, she quickly covered it with her hand. "Please, just let it go? I don't plan to do anything, okay? I just ..." Her hand dropped from his face, taking her fiery demeanor with her. On instinct, she sought out Asami's form on the dance floor; the sight alone always managed to calm her. "She's my best friend. I don't ever want to risk losing her." A somewhat sad smile ghosted over her lips as she saw the annoyed look on the heiress' face when Wu pulled her close after a twirl, effectively negating her attempts to escape. "So I can be content with just being friends."

Mako was momentarily taken aback by the honest declaration. Although her words were clear, her entire body language told him that she was lying. The way she looked at Asami ... It was with a longing so intense it was on the verge of becoming physically painful. A small part of him grew jealous over the fact that she had never talked about nor looked at him the same way she did Asami. However, it was also that part that sparked his anger about the situation. He wanted Korra to be happy. More than anything, he had wanted to be the cause of her happiness, but he had come to terms with the fact that they were not meant to be a long time ago. Ever since, he had vowed to himself that he would never stand in the way of her happiness, wherever she might find it. By some twist of fate, the two women he cared for the most had found happiness with each other, a deep emotional connection he hoped to be lucky enough to find for himself one day. But to then learn that Korra was willing to let it slip away ... no, there was no way that he would let her do that.

"Wow, for someone who claims to be Asami's best friend, you sure lack faith in her." His icy tone nearly surprised himself as much as it did Korra. "You two obviously care for each other and yet, you don't think she's worth the risk? You place an imaginary fear before your happiness and hers?" Korra opened her mouth to protest, but Mako trudged on. "You kissed me while she and I were still dating. You basically stole me from her, and yet, she never blamed you. Even more, she gave up everything she had and stuck by you. That all happened when you even barely knew each other. Now you're best friends, so what makes you think she would abandon you now?"

Korra stared at him in silence, his words echoing through her mind. She knew there was a truth to them, but it was not that simple. It was logical that Asami would act like he claimed, but what if she didn't? She just could not risk that.

Her doubts and fears where apparently visible on her face as Mako sighed and continued in a more mellow though still annoyed tone. "You do know she loves you too, right?" When Korra continued to be silent, he pressed his hand against his face and groaned.

Although she knew that he just wanted to help, Korra began to grow annoyed by Mako's attitude. It was easy for him to say what she needed to do, it was not him who would risk everything. Although she knew in the back of her mind that she was blowing it out of proportion, it was easier to not think about it and just be annoyed with Mako. "Why do you even care whether or not I get together with Asami?"

"Because you're obviously made for each other. And you're my friends, I just want you to be happy!"

"We are happy, so why don't you just let it be?"

"Oh, puh-lease. Yes, you're happy, but why settle for happy when you could be ecstatic? You're just scared. And the stupid thing is that you don't have any reason to be!"

"And how do you know that without a shadow of a doubt?!"

Korra was practically shouting by now, drawing the attention of some of the nearby guests. As such, Mako quickly raised his good arm in surrender and lowered his voice. "Okay, look, I'm sorry, all right? I didn't mean to anger you. I just don't understand why you'd be content with just being friends when you could have more, could be more, which is obviously what you want. And what she wants."

Korra sighed wearily. "I'm sorry, too. I shouldn't have yelled at you. It's just ... yes, I love her, and I know I always will, but I just ... What if she doesn't feel the same? You said she does, but how do you know that? How are you so sure?"

Her previous anger had been completely replaced by a desperation so palpable that Mako forgot his own annoyance. Thinking for a moment, a mischievous smile took hold of his face. "I could show you."

"Show me?"

"Well, I could spend hours listing all the small and big things that prove Asami loves you, like how she was willing to teach you how to drive in her own personal car that she loves, how she offered to drop everything to help you recover from the mercury poisoning, how she painted her car Water Tribe blue after you, how excited she was to hear you were coming back, how distraught she was upon learning you had vanished—and trust me, I could go on like this for a while—but you would never believe me ... or you might at some level, but you'd be too stubborn to actually believe me. You would probably come up with alternative—undoubtedly far-fetched—explanations as to how none of those things prove that she loves you but are merely outings of circumstantial events. So instead, I could save us all a lot of time and just show you that Asami gets jealous over you, because I've never know her to get jealous over anyone unless she had an interest in them. Do you?"

Korra looked as if she was going to protest, but when Mako gave her a look, daring her to claim that he was exaggerating, she bypassed his reasoning, much to his amusement. "How would you prove that?"

"Do you trust me?" The mischievous twinkle in his eye sparkled brighter, slightly unnerving Korra, who hesitated. Looking around, she spotted Asami, smiling brightly to herself, making her way towards them.

"Eum ... in general or right now?" When Mako gave her a blank stare, Korra quickly conceded. "All right, all right, I trust you, you know that. But however you plan to show me, you better do it fast, as Asami is coming over, and I don't want to be having this convers—"

Korra's sentence was cut off when Mako suddenly snaked his free hand around her neck and drew her in for a kiss. The moment they connected, Korra's body went rigid and her mind blank. It felt like it took an eternity for her brain to process what was happening; Mako's lips pressed against hers, and desperate to breathe herself, she felt his breath slip inside her, running though her body as molten lava. However, as soon as the sensation reached her chest, something shook her violently. While her brain was working at a snailsloth's pace, her heart reacted with the speed of an eelhound. Suddenly truly realizing that it was Mako who was kissing her, she felt a panic grip her and squeeze tightly. What would Asami think?! Balking inside, Korra's blue eyes snapped into focus as adrenaline pumped through her body, and she shoved Mako away.

Staring wide-eyed at him, Korra's mind had trouble forming complete sentences, a battle for dominance between anger and confusion raging on in her mind. "What?! ... Why?!" Seeing Asami run towards the docks of the island, nearly bumping into Lin and Bolin in her haste to vanish, Korra's internal struggle was quickly decided in favor of anger. She whirled around to face Mako with such force that he involuntarily took a step back. "You ... YOU!"

The part of Korra's fury that did not make it to her intonation exploded through little cracks and tremors in the earth; she was literally shaking with anger.

Mako quickly took another step back from the furious Avatar, nervously motioning her to calm down. "This is the part where you remember that you trust me, that you trust that I would never do anything to hurt you or Asami."

"Trust you? Trust you?! You ... YOU!" Korra advanced on Mako, though before she reached him, she turned on her heels and backed away. The defiant stance of her self-control did not last long, however, and she rounded on him again, raising a menacing finger. "You ..."

Before Korra could utter another word, Lin and Bolin appeared at their sides, with Lin's sharp tones offering a welcome distraction for Mako. "Why are you two making all this racket? Half the party has lost interest in the bride and groom because the Avatar has been yelling at her ex-boyfriend."

Turning to the two newcomers, Korra furiously pointed at Mako. "He ... HE! Ragh!" She angrily threw her arms in the air and started to pace once again; every time she faced Mako, she opened her mouth but nothing came out.

"Korra, please calm down. You're making a scene." Bolin reached out to offer a comforting embrace but immediately recoiled as if touching a hotplate when she shot him the same dangerous glare she had been giving Mako. "Wow, o-kay, making a scene is good, making a scene is very good ... you continue doing that." Laughing awkwardly, he shuffled away from her and toward his brother. Between clenched teeth, while still smiling at Korra, he hissed at him. "What did you do? Why did Asami run off like that? She nearly bowled me over, and I could swear I saw some tears in her eyes."

Upon hearing that, Korra whirled on Mako. "Tears? YOU! Your fault!" Though before she could actually reach him, Lin took her firmly by the arm and held her back.

"Simmer down there, kiddo. And you," she turned to Mako, "better start explaining, because the Avatar seems to have lost the ability to string more than two words together."

"Well ..." Mako scratched the back of his head, feeling terribly awkward with his boss asking him to explain what happened. "Eum, yes, you see, Chief, what happened is, eum ..."

"Oh, spit it out already!"

"I kissed Korra to show her Asami loves her too and that she should make a move, because they're both—"

A stunned silence settled over the foursome as Mako recovered from the slap in the face Korra had given him. Breathing deeply through her nose to calm herself, her voice was shaking with every syllable that she managed to force past her lips. "I ... told you that ... in private! Urch ... YOU!"

As Korra raised her hand again, Lin pushed her back and protectively positioned herself before Mako. "Okay, that's enough, calm down! It's not like he blabbed a national secret anyway; the vibrations of your fluttering heart whenever Miss Sato is near have been nauseating me for months now. Just fix it already before I actually hurl."

The casualness that accompanied Lin's revelation dealt such a devastating blow to the raging beast inside of Korra that she completely forgot about her anger. Her flabbergasted "What?" was drowned out, however, by Bolin's startled gasp.

"Bro! You kissed Korra? Again? ... Are you in love with her? Again?"

"What? No!" Mako whirled around to face his brother. "We've made it clear in the past that we don't work as a couple, we're just friends."

"Uhu mmmyes, friends, of course! Because randomly kissing each other is a normal pastime for friends." Scowling at his brother, he bobbed him on the nose with a strong finger. "No! Bad Mako! That's not what friends do! I mean, I'm friends with the Chief, but you don't see me kissing her."

Lin's face went blank upon hearing the comparison, and she involuntarily took a step away from the young earthbender, giving him a look that clearly warned him to never even say something like that again if he valued his life.

Swatting his brother's finger away in annoyance, Mako pinched the bridge of his nose, before shooting Bolin a warning glare to not strike him again. "Look, it's all very simple: the kiss didn't mean a thing. I just did that to prove to Korra that Asami loves her back and that she should make a move. I wanted to prove to her that Asami actually gets jealous because of her whenever someone else shows affection to her. You know how pigheaded Korra is when it comes to just accepting someone's word for it."

"Hey, I'm right here!"

"Deal with it, kiddo, he's right. While I don't particularly approve of going around and kissing people—seriously, don't you people have any regards for personal boundaries?—you are particularly tough to get through to and tend to not listen to anyone unless proof hits you in the face." Lin's scrutinizing gaze switched between Mako and Korra, who both felt rather admonished by her brash tone. "Anyway, the truth of the matter is that Asami is a smart young lady, though for reasons I cannot—and would rather not—fathom, she seems to like you, love you even, as her heart is just as nauseating as yours. So while I understand that you're angry with Mako for kissing you, he did end up proving his point: there is no way that Asami stormed off that distraught because of him."

"Hey, I'm right here."

"Sorry, bro, the Chief's right."

Lin ignored Mako who was glaring at his grinning brother and turned her full attention to Korra. Putting a hand on her shoulder, her expression softened. "Look, Korra, the thing is, everyone sort of already knew about you and Miss Sato," Korra's eyes opened in shock, but Lin continued, cutting of the Avatar's brewing question of how, "and we couldn't be happier. Considering everything that happened to the two of you, you deserve to be happy. Both of you. So," her tone instantly returned to her more familiar brash nature, "the real question at the moment is, what would you rather do? Stand here and chew Mako's head off, or go get the woman we all know you want?"

Korra stared at the trio before her. They all knew? How? Had she been that transparent? She had thought that if she would ever tell someone, they would be surprised, not having seen it coming. As her blue eyes met Lin's hard greens, she stopped her train of thought. It did not matter that everyone knew, might even make things easier and less awkward when Asami and her would officially be together ... When ... Lin was right. Korra moved on to meet Mako's amber gaze. She could stand here and be mad at him, but even though she wished he had not kissed her, she could not deny that it had been effective. Asami was clearly bothered by it, and they had talked enough about the firebender to know for sure that neither of them would ever get back together with him. So her intense reaction could only have had to do with her ... Could it really be? Could Asami really love her back? She had told Mako that she could be content with how things were between them now, but she knew that was a lie. She would always want more, and perhaps it was not so crazy and unobtainable as she had thought. Asami was jealous ... because of her, because of Mako kissing her. The realization plastered an unwipeable smile on her face. Without saying another word, without wasting another second, Korra started off in the direction of the docks, in the direction of her Asami.

As the trio watched the Avatar go, Bolin draped his arms over Lin and Mako, drawing them both in a tight embrace. "Ah, true love, it really is a fickle creature, difficult to find and nearly impossible to tame, but oh so beautiful to behold."

When he sighed deeply and contently and swooned on Lin's shoulder, the Chief roughly pushed him away and stalked off back to party. As she passed Opal who had come to find Bolin for another dance, Lin barked at her surprised niece that she was an idiot.


  • The title song of this chapter can be listened to here.
Lostris' Korrasami stories
A MinuteB(l)ending Together
Smoke and Mirrors
1: By Your Side2: Halfway Gone ♥ 3: All That I'm Asking For ♥ 4: Falling In ♥ 5: Hanging By A Moment ♥ 6: All In

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