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Kwong's Cuisine
Novum
Chapter information
Series

Excelsior

Chapter

2

Written by

Sparkstoaflame

Editor(s)

Sparkstoaflame

Release date

November 15, 2013

Word count

7,105

Chronology
Last chapter

Clausula

Next chapter

Exordia

II. Novum

[what are you waiting for?

i'm not running from you]

.

.

(iii. carpe diemseize the day)

Apparently Korra was wrapped up in a waterlogged black cloak with her dark brown locks plastered to her face when Captain Hong Li of the United Forces found her washed upon the shores of the Fire Nation capital, gently bobbing in the waves but otherwise utterly motionless.

Mako receives the telegram a mere two hours later and rushes to rejoin the Avatar who was told to get her ass out of Republic City as fast as possible, and while she had complied with Lin Beifong's demand, why did it have to end in this way?

The firebender arrives the following day at dawn, his hair a mess and amber eyes bright with a demonic and feverish intensity, but even he stops in his tracks when he sees her.

Because with Korra dressed in such drab colors, is it so wrong to mistake her for a dark angel that came straight from the shadows?

.

"Anyu's dead," Bolin informs his brother with a quavering voice over the shaky connection of one of those newfangled devices that allowed people to contact others over long distances—what did they call them?

Ah, yes. The telephone.

Mako can almost see Bolin biting his fingernails away at a record pace in between the awkward pause while his normally stoic amber eyes cloud with unobscured grief on the other end.

"...I knew that already. And well, um, speaking of Anyu...about Korra." He coughs, a forced cough that sounds fake even to him. "She was, um...she was found washed up on the shores of the Fire Nation." He speaks his last words quietly, his irises drifting downwards to survey the cracks on the dirty ground and his tone wilting into the hard concrete beneath his feet in perfect tandem with the motion of his eyes.

There's a strangled gasp from the other end and Mako braces himself for the waterworks that are sure to follow.

But who can blame Bolin? A disappearance and a death of two dear friends in two weeks; if Mako didn't know better he would say that the spirits are having a little too much fun with them.

The only reason why the firebender doesn't instantly hang up and run towards the gray, crashing ocean is because he—not yet—hasn't given up.

He can't.

Can't give up.

.

"Avatar Korra is still unresponsive," General Iroh comments over their tea, his dark amber eyes alight with the warm flames of sympathy.

Mako's jaw shifts to the right side as he stares at himself, pale and pallid, in the murky reflection of his already-tepid drink. "...I see."

[ – look in my eyes – ]

"I mean," Iroh continues thoughtfully after demurely raising the porcelain cup to his lips, "she has been speaking, and the like. Speaking unconsciously, as it would seem. She appears to be in a rather uncooperative condition. Tossing and turning and attempting to strangle anyone who gets near her all while talking about some being named Raava." He raises an eyebrow and his cup clinks brightly against its saucer.

This reminds Mako too much of another recent event for comfort, and he quickly sets his shivering teacup back into its gilded porcelain hold before anyone can see that it's shaking violently in his grasp. "Can...can I see her?"

Raava? Who in Agni's name is Raava?

.

(There was uncertainty visible in her blue eyes, but it was only there for but a moment before she resolutely lifted her chin up.

"...Then take them, and be quick about it."

The dark spirit chuckled lazily, snaking forwards to stare her in the eyes with those intricate purple designs branded upon his face—or, at least, what appeared to be his face—and started to play with mind games with her. Which, needless to say, Korra didn't appreciate.

Not. One. Bit.

"You must understand that you will be dropped into a world comprised of different, ah, circumstances—you will be replacing the—"

"Fine, fine, fine; just hurry up and take them!" Her voice is brimming with desperate anticipation, and then she drops her head and breathes out, "I'll do whatever it takes."

If Vaatu could smile, the grin would have been a cruel one indeed. "You would, wouldn't you? You showed the world that. That you would...stoop down to such a low level for this girl? To show off the infinite amount of power you hold in your hands? The power to kill as you please?"

(only this and nothing more)

"Shut up," the Avatar with too many purple bags under her eyes bluntly shot back, "and just take them away."

Vaatu merely laughed his terrible laugh once more. "I'm starting to wonder, Raava, whether you want these memories taken away for Asami Sato or for yourself."

"Don't call me Raava." Korra venomously spat out the words as if they were poison in her mouth. "And of course it's for Asami."

"This is guilt speaking, Avatar." He loomed above her even in his prison; ever an omnipresent shadow. "You only want to forget what you did."

(should have...

"...Let your anger out, and then let it go.")

"I'm not Avatar Aang," Korra nonsensically muttered back, her jaw tightly locked.

("No. I'm saying this because I know that you won't be happy when you turn the page and realize that the consequences of your actions have changed the events in your...fairy tale up quite a bit.")

She only clenched her teeth even harder, turning her head aside to the ground. "Stop it!" A double meaning.

("You killed Anyu," he accused.)

"Just take them!"

He obliged.

And then she knew no more.)

.

Mako worries about Korra more than he should, what with all the relatively nasty things he had said to her about her relationships in the past, but it's still an ingrained habit inside of him saying that Korra comes first.

Old habits die hard. And try as he might (not that he's trying that hard), he just can't get rid of it.

So when Korra comes swaying unsteadily out of the room she was staying in the Fire Nation palace, she somehow manages to focus in on the firebender sitting quietly on a plush chair and then reaches forward to slug him heavily on the arm, which he accepts quietly with a small grimace and a self-conscious rub.

He had certainly expected the punch but not the bone-crushing hug that came immediately after it, much less the hot huff of her breath grazing the tip of his left ear.

"Don't ever break up with me like that again, you asshole."

Mako has the urge to point out, "You broke up with me" but he merely settles for a confused blink that Korra cannot see instead, and he finds his mouth moving robotically on its own accord.

"...I won't."

.

The next time the brown-haired blue-eyed girl opens her eyes she has no damned clue who she is and she has absolutely no recollection of anything about herself—

—oh no, wait...

...Because there's something, there's someone there, a dim image of a girl with black hair and green eyes, but there's also that name ringing ceaselessly through her head—

Mako.

Unfortunately, she can't dwell upon those trivial thoughts at the moment because she's throwing up seawater onto the sand and there are three funnily-dressed people with large and impractical hats perched on top of their heads leaning over her and they're asking her a question

(who was that girl who was scared of falling down?)

and Korra's mouth is opening and closing like a fish gasping for air on land on their own accord and she hears herself choke out a convoluted "I don't know, I don't know..."

Although, the humans looming over her have no way of knowing that Korra isn't answering their question but the one that is droning a flat monologue inside her head, the one that demands her attention and the one that she, curiously enough, would willingly give attention to.

(who was that girl with all the fresh greenery of spring contained in her eyes?)

.

Asami Sato sometimes wonders what in Koh's realm is wrong with not only the inhabitants of Republic City but also the whole planet in general.

By this point everyone's sure that Avatar Korra's mysterious disappearance means that she's dead and the Order of the White Lotus is already gearing up to search the Earth Kingdom for the new Avatar, even though no corpse of the former Avatar has been found, rotted or fresh.

Mako declares all of this bullshit but doesn't do a thing to stop the rumors from blazing across the entirety of the Four Nations, probably because he wouldn't have been able to do anything to halt the raging flames of speculation anyways, and either spends his time working his smarmy ass off at the police station or holed up in his apartment room like an antisocial hermit.

In the midst of all the chaos, Bolin is off inflating his ego into overtly large proportions by acting as Nuktuk, hero of the south! and Asami's just miserably trying to lead a normal life in the confusion.

The heiress decides to make a visit to Mako's apartment exactly six days after Korra's disappearance at precisely two-fifty in the morning, because really, he hadn't been acting the same since his girlfriend (apparently now ex-girlfriend) vanished. Climbing up to what she knows is Mako's floor, she jiggles the bronze-colored doorknob, which apparently chooses that it does not wish to resist her advances. Twisting her wrist to the left, Asami soundlessly opens the door, quietly stepping over and into the firebender's threshold before pushing the dark slab of wood back behind her, where it quietly shuts closes with a gentle click.

Her bag is the first to drop down towards the wooden ground, where it lands with a barely perceptible thumping sound on the welcome mat as stale air from the inside rushes out through the little gap the unclosed zipper leaves behind. She slips off her jacket immediately after, hanging it carefully onto a thin brown coat hanger pushed carelessly to the immediate right of the door, where it limply shakes like a quivering dark shadow.

"...Mako?" she uncertainly calls, scanning the spartan-like room for the firebender with a practiced sweep of her eyes, because if there's anything she learned while she was in that doomed relationship with him it's that he could be annoyingly difficult to find at various times.

He responds almost immediately.

"Mmmmmph," comes a drawn-out grunt. "'Sami?"

The lump of black cloth on the sofa Asami previously thought was a fat bundle of coats shifts and Mako's pallid white face peeks out from the folds of the quivering mass of cotton.

The heiress's eyebrows knit together as her eyes fall upon the mountainous stack of paperwork that seemingly has no end heaped on top of the table right next to the overstuffed sofa. A few legal documents are scattered around the floor, and Asami delicately picks one of them up, scanning it superficially and without much interest before setting it demurely aside onto a nightstand standing stiffly besides her.

"You'll be rotting in front of your desk at this rate," she quietly points out.

"I"—Mako hugely yawns—"need to finish this." He gestures vaguely at the papers strewn across the table. "A few reports."

"A...few reports," Asami responds, unconvinced as she warily eyes the sheets of paper that are threatening to topple over onto the floor in a muddled mess of documents.

He ignores the tone of her voice and instead asks, "What are you doing here?"

That's a good question, and she conveniently doesn't have a ready answer for it.

"Um...to talk?"

"To talk?" he grunts. "What time is it, exactly?"

"...Three in the morning."

"Three in the what?!" The firebender loudly swears before the blanket gets the better of him and he goes sliding onto the ground, a mess of tangled limbs and black cloth. He pushes himself out of the constricting blankets and hobbles toward his desk. "Dammit, I'll never get this done—"

"Mako...stop it." Asami leans over to pluck the fountain pen from between his fumbling fingers. "I get that you have work to do, but this," and at that she gestures to the enormous pile of papers sitting on the table, "this is going to kill you." She pulls up a chair next to him and puts a cool hand over Mako's hot palms. "Go to sleep," she suggests. "You can do that later."

"But...Beifong wants..." Mako languidly stutters, his eyelids drooping downwards as if heavy lead weights have been affixed to them, but then they snap back up as if he has just been jolted awake by some extreme purpose (only to have them fall back down again).

"Well..." the non-bender gently consoles, "think about it this way. You won't be doing anyone any favors by killing yourself."

Mako's eyes gain a faraway look to them, a look that could have been vacantly staring at a point a million miles away. A look that at the same time is present as it is detached.

"I miss Korra," he quietly muses, hugging his knees to his chest in a very un-Mako-like way.

And Asami blinks once

(—and there's a pair of warm lips that definitely, definitely, definitely aren't Mako's pressed against her own—)

and then she blinks twice before she shakes her head, because really, what the hell?

And Asami likes Korra, she really does. She likes the brown-haired blue-eyed girl—as a friend. But there's a strange little something shivering inside her chest that's telling her otherwise, demanding her attention by rattling loudly against her ribcage, an emotion that feels suspiciously similar to longing.

The heiress has no idea what to make of it because she can't love Korra and Korra can't love her because their relationship is strictly platonic and Asami can't even begin to wrap her head around the concept of people loving other people of the same sex.

(can't can't can't)

Mako's looking at her expectantly for an answer to his statement, so Asami edges carefully away from the burning questions searing themselves into her mind and replies to him.

"I do, too," she assures the firebender. "I do too."

(how much?)

.

The heavyset man in the blue parka, who's named Kuruk, tells Korra to find someone called Raava.

.

("What are you scared of?" she asked one lazy afternoon while she plays with Asami's silky black hair.

"...Falling." The non-bender slightly blushed before she gestured vaguely up towards the blue sky with wisps of clouds racing above. "If I didn't have this stupid bathophobia I'd be probably flying all the time like you do with airbending."

Korra didn't say anything but inside she was thinking that it's lucky that Asami's scared of falling because now she didn't have to worry about the heiress flying away and leaving her alone.)

.

"...Are you Raava?" she asks uncertainly, staring with wide cobalt eyes at the young man dressed in a muddy orange tunic floating in a blinding sphere of light front of her.

"No, but I can help you find her."

What Korra really wants to ask is, Can you help me find the girl who made the promise to me?

.

It turns out that Mako's right about the world being a bunch of morons after all because four days after their awkward conversation in his apartment, Korra is found stumbling across Republic City's docks (with about as much coordination as a drunken man) under the starlight with no recollection of anything except for her name and her title and two people called Wan and Raava.

The funny thing is that Asami's not looking forwards to them reuniting.

Not one little bit.

And don't ask her why, because she doesn't know why herself.

.

Her heart thuds against her chest like it's threatening to break out from of the constricting confines of her ribcage because, oh my spirits, the gorgeous raven-haired green-eyed girl is actually real and alive in flesh and blood.

Her arms are ready even before the force throws itself into them, and a body collides with her, shoving the breath clear out of her lungs in a sharp whoosh and she's grinning like an idiot even if she doesn't know why while her fingers stroke their way through spiked dark hair—

—spiked hair?

Wait a moment, this is all wrong. It can't be, she's got it all wrong

(this isn't right, no this isn't right)

because it's not spiky hair she's aching for but lustrous raven locks, and that girl is standing right behind the irritating lump of dark gray cloth and scratchy red wool, and she's smiling a smile that isn't oh my spirits I've missed you so much these past few months but it's a smile that says well the two lovebirds are back together again, how cute! and Korra's registering all of this the moment she splutters into this annoying man's face and places her palms onto his chest to push him away because she's hugging the wrong person and the person she wants to hug is smiling the wrong smile.

Ignoring the look of hurt and confusion that appears on the spiky-haired man's face she locks her own shadowed blue eyes with the woman's vibrant green ones and carefully ventures, "Are you Mako?"

An awkward silence ensues and Korra winces as she feels the shock hanging frozen in the air crash down onto her like a disapproving ton of mortar and bricks.

"...Um, no, Mako's standing right there." And the ebony-haired goddess points at the man standing behind Korra, the man whose face has turned a pasty shade of white and seems to be playing with the idea of running away from the scene all together.

Korra attempts to swallow but that isn't working so well with the rising lump in her throat, so instead she dumbly comments upon the staggering revelation, "Oh."

It's the worst thing she could have said, because condensed in that one word is disappointment and bitterness, and Korra's so shocked that she can't cover up the emotions running rampant through the tone of her voice. It's palpable to all those who are present and maybe that's also the worst thing that could have happened at the moment.

She forces herself to meet the startled amber gaze of the spiky-haired man, Mako, she forces herself to meet his eyes and she pulls her lips up into a quivering, completely faux smile.

So selfish, Korra. You're so selfish.

And Korra accepts his careful embrace this time but she's too stiff and he's too awkward. So of course everyone sees right through her like her skin is made of glass.

Especially the man, the man with spiky black hair named Mako.

.

.

(iv. carpe noctemseize the night)

("Korra," he said awkwardly, because he really didn't know how to start his thoughts without sounding blatantly insulting, "you're turning...weird in a bad way, you know that?" He slightly wrinkled his nose in annoyance, his vexation directed solely towards the girl plucking an old scroll from the dark brown oak shelf, one of the many that inhabited Air Temple Island's vast library. "I mean, I'm sorry, what with you and Asami and all, but...I just think that people liking other people of the same sex is kind of, um...abnormal."

Korra slowly turned to face him, her usual and familiar cocky grin completely gone. In its place is a thin and hard line. "...Excuse me."

"What?"

"Are you speaking out of jealousy, or are you saying what you actually believe?" she heatedly snapped back.

He didn't have an answer to that.

"That's what I thought." Korra sharply rolled the yellowed scroll up and marched stiffly out of the room, her shoulders squared together as if she was preparing herself for whatever she would meet in the hallway.

Maybe he's imagining things but Mako heard something else—a small thing, really, something known as a close friendship—irrevocably snap shut along with the spool of parchment.)

.

[ – i tried to be someone else – ]

She remembers.

.

("Promise me that you won't leave me? Ever? At least"—at this she gathered Asami's icy cold hands in her own warm ones—"at least, you know, until I know you're not scared of the sky anymore." And she smiled a crooked smile that leaned to the left, tilting her head up to face the night sky that has sparkling shards of ice thrown all across its arms and folds. "I mean, uh, not the sky. Falling down. It wouldn't do you any good if you became a spirit when you're scared of falling. They say that each of the stars up there," she gestures vaguely with a hand at the blackness above, "is an individual spirit. How would you feel hanging up there for eternity, huh?" A loose train of chuckles floated out from past her lips.

"Scared?" Asami rolled her eyes, giving the still-laughing Korra a small shove to the right. "I see. So this is coming from the high and mighty Avatar who's scared of dark rooms and can't sleep without a stuffed animal in close proximity."

"You mean by 'stuffed animal', a four-hundred pound polar bear dog whose name is Naga, and Naga looks pretty alive to me, thank you very much. You know, the little things," she teased back with a smirk. "And you, scared of flying. Scared of falling, spirits." She laughed again.

Asami hummed her response. "Fair enough. And...as for the spirits in the stars thing, at least I'll still be able to make sure that you won't do anything stupid in the unlikely case that I do happen to die young, hmm?"

"But you won't die," Korra replied, the touch of a smile still playing around her lips. "I won't let you and you won't let yourself. And we're never going to leave each other hanging. Right?"

"Well, it certainly sounds like something out of a cheesy romance novel," Asami mused back.

Korra flushed a bright shade of red.

So...can you promise me that?

Cue pause. A tight squeeze of her fingers. Brought her dark raspberry colored lips close to the other girl's ear and lightly said:

"...I won't. I promise."

Korra didn't say anything back, but the faint upturn of her lips said all that needed to be said.)

.

She remembers all of it. Her life in that other universe. Every single tiny facet of it. Every single aspect, every single act. She remembers the emotions

(crushing, horrible, suffocating depression

burning, furious, scorching souls)

the conversations, like

("korra, why do you do this to yourself?"

"...because i cared. because i still care.")

and there's a tight knot of fear and dread settling uncomfortably in her chest, spreading its slow, aching poison like icy fingers reaching their way through her body, because she realizes that Vaatu indeed kept his word, that she's in a world where Asami is alive—

—but the really terrible thing is that Asami's just not hers. And Korra's not Asami's.

In many different ways she's pretty much back to square one, and this doesn't sit very well with her fragmented conscience.

Now Korra is dangerously close to going back to her fantasies in which a burning Air Temple Island collapses onto herself and crushes her deep into the earth. So she does the only thing that makes sense to her right now.

She buries her head into her pillow and waits.

Because it really is rather humid in the room and she wouldn't be surprised if water suddenly started condensing on her face. In the form of salty drops of water.

Even though shedding tears has been the only thing she's been doing a lot lately.

.

From outside the flimsy bamboo door that has some coarse paper stretched across its thin panes a woman with emerald green eyes attempts to swallow against the lump in her throat as she watches the Avatar behind the screen shake with silent sobs and convulse with the desperation one must experience if she's watching someone die. And Asami thinks that she can hear Korra quietly whimpering, which is strange in and on itself because Korra never whimpers:

"Whywhywhywhywhy?"

(—scorching and desperate kisses, hot hands and soft lips: definitely, definitely, definitely not Mako's—)

Whywhywhywhywhy? Asami who doesn't realize her feet are silently carrying her next to Korra's bed asks along with the Avatar who doesn't realize that she's being watched over.

Why?

One word that asks such a big question. A question that she doesn't have any answers to.

As soon as Asami stops next to the mattress, burning sapphire eyes snap open in the night, the lids slightly puffy from salty tears; eyes that permeate the thick darkness like a bright beacon of light as they indifferently lock onto a pair of emeralds before blinking once in recognition. And then a single word tumbles out past Korra's lips:

"Oh."

It is the word that she uttered upon realizing that Asami was definitely, definitely, definitely not named Mako but this time the "oh" isn't said lifelessly and with disappointment. Instead it's slightly surprised, as if she can't yet quite believe that Asami's standing right over her bed, to which the heiress immediately flinches at because now Korra must think that she's some kind of perverted stalker.

"Um," Asami scrambles futilely for a logical excuse that explained exactly what she is doing standing over the Avatar like this, "I was, er, I heard you...talking...in your sleemmph!"

"Sleemmph!" isn't exactly Asami had intended to say (she didn't even know what she wanted to say) but she doesn't exactly have a choice because Korra has somehow got a tight hold on both of her arms, a grip that conveys need and want, and not two moments later she's pulled down and the Avatar's lips crash into Asami's and then just like that they're kissing.

[ – finally found myself – ]

They're kissing and Asami is suspended in a highly awkward and cramped half-crouching, half-standing position which Korra easily resolves by sharply tugging the non-bender down into the bed with her right fingers tangled through Asami's hair, and every single part of Asami is screaming holy shit what am I doing and this is so wrong, this is so spirits damned wrong, but for some reason she isn't pulling away; she won't and she can't pull away, and all she really can do is melt into the Avatar's soft touch and fly up and up and up without any fear of hitting the roof of the sky.

.

The next few days after their mad make-out session can only be described as awkward. Because again, Asami doesn't know what to think about what happened there and she doesn't really try to.

So she makes it a point to avoid Korra for the next few days while she attempts to sort out her rebellious, tumultuous emotions (which doesn't end up happening).

Even though at one point they all end up at Kwong's Cuisine for dinner, at Asami's suggestion—all of them: one slightly jumpy and totally-clueless-to-the-events-that-happened-three-days-prior Mako; one Bolin with an ego that is still much too large for his own good; Asami of course...and then there's the not-so-amnesiac Avatar who may or may not have a thing for the girl with green eyes given her actions middle of the night a few days ago.

The heiress's stomach slightly rolls over because she thinks that Korra leans more towards the "may" end of the spectrum and this thought does not mix well at all with the creamed spinach sitting in front of her, something that looks unappetizing at its best but with Asami's jumbled thoughts running at a million miles an hour it may as well have been inedible.

Asami catches the Avatar sneaking furtive and slightly desperate glances towards her in between courses and through the protective barrier wound tightly across her shoulders that is Mako's arm. And Asami tries to concentrate on her food, the taunting blob of white-and-green vegetables sitting smugly in front of her, untouched and uneaten, but Korra keeps on looking at her and it's starting to seriously piss her off to the point when she drops her fork with a loud clatter against the glazed porcelain plate, causing Mako to frown at her in surprise and Korra to flinch violently.

"Korra, can I talk with you?"

Mako's eyebrows disappear into his hairline, and his questioning gaze lingers on Asami while Bolin continues to eat but Korra slithers out from under the firebender's arm and promptly shuffles outside, her shoulders squared and hands clenching into tightly locked fists.

"...Asami?" Mako asks with an uncertain lilt to his tone.

"I'll be back soon," she assures him with a smile. Although anyone can tell that the smile is forced and there's thin-lipped irritation and anger behind its sunny façade.

And she follows the Avatar out of the restaurant.

.

("You lied," she heatedly accused the starkly shining marble headstone, the lone halo of light rising like a second moon against the somber cloak of night. "You lied to me, Asami, about everything."

Are you even listening to me?

"You lied about never leaving, you lied about not 'dying young'." Her shoulders jerked up and down with sharp, terrible sobs. "You lied about getting over your stupid fear of falling. Falling, for the spirits' sake!"

Of course, the spirits hadn't been very dependable of late.

"You weren't supposed to die, you jackass...that was never part of the plan.")

.

"We made a promise to each other once," Korra distantly says once they're both outside with a flicker of a defiant expression passing across her face. "And, um...I remember everything. I mean, I didn't know that when Vaatu sent me here I'd replace the Korra in this universe and she would replace me in that one. Which you're dead in. I mean," and Korra hastily backtracks because a dark expression has settled upon Asami's perfect features, "well, you were killed in. And then a lot of things happened"—which she conveniently didn't elaborate upon any further—"and...here I am."

Asami arches an eyebrow. "I don't see how that has to do anything with the promise."

"I...we would...never leave each other..." Korra falters slightly before blurting out with a wild and desperate look in her blue eyes, "Are you scared of falling?"

Green irises affix the Avatar with an unreadable look. "...No. Why?"

Korra can almost see her own expression crumple into despair and disappointment, and something just shatters inside of her into a million pieces like broken shards of glass glinting upon the ground. Something called hope. Hope, the thing she clung onto after Asami died. Hope, the thing she embraced even as she spiraled into the endless stinking pit that is depression, the hole that's calling her name, that she's dangerously teetering over the edge of again. Hope, the thing she held tightly even as her physical hands were occupied with burning the life out of Anyu. And now even that's being snuffed out in the wake of those two words, because an Asami who isn't scared of falling isn't Korra's Asami.

"...Oh...okay."

Lifeless and crushed.

The heiress remains silent for a long moment, but eventually she turns to walk away and whispers,

[ – you said you wanted more – ]

"In any case, I'm not the girl who made that promise to you."

The first thing Korra thinks after that is:

...Oooh spirits above, she did not just say that after that night happened.

Then a not so polite phrase races through her mind that she doesn't dare voice but is pretty much equivalent to the words "screw everything". Because really—screw everything. Anything, anything, anything. With that one short comment she sees the beginning of the end of everything she's done to be reunited with the girl with emeralds for eyes, and Korra doesn't think she has the heart or the will to go through what she did all over again.

"Asami..." she hesitantly whispers, her exhaled breath condensing into a cloud of warm white mist in front of her in the freezing night air.

But the heiress doesn't turn around, instead choosing to disappear around a bend in the street with her head down, and Avatar Korra watches the heiress leave her for a second time and lets out a broken exhale from past her bitter lips, because in so many damned ways rejection is quite a bit more painful than death.

.

("You killed Anyu," Mako bluntly accused as soon as Lin Beifong unlocked the heavy outer door that shielded the metal interrogation room from prying eyes and sidestepped away to allow him inside before slamming the door back in her wake.

"I didnot," Korra immediately spat back, unable to keep the poison and indignation and pure vehemence from creeping into her voice. "I...," she spluttered incoherently, a drowning woman groping for handholds, "all I wanted to do was to hurt her! I wanted to make her feel the wounds I felt! Because—because you know and I know that there's almost nothing more painful than realizing that another human took the person you love most in the world and killed her in cold blood!" Her fingers clenched into white-knuckled fists, her nails digging deep into her palm and leaving half-moons in their wake.

"You did the same thing to Anyu," Mako flatly replied, staring at her with a smoldering golden glare.

"I..." Korra looked slightly lost at that. "I, I just wanted to cause her agony, I wanted her to suffer, I wanted to take her by the neck and choke her in a very public manner, I wanted the Four Nations to know what that bitch had done to Asami, I wanted my revenge, and I would get it." Her eyes lit up. "Although, you should know this anyways, what with your dead mother and father"—and at this she frostily glared at the flinching amber-eyed firebender—"she practically killed me when she stuck that stinking knife into Asami—"

This, of course, didn't sound like Korra at all. But then again, Korra hadn't been sounding like Korra for the past few weeks anyways.

(darkness there and nothing more)

Mako tightly pursed his lips. "You go on about explaining how when Anyu knifed Asami she, by extent, hurt you—what about her own family? Friends? Relations?"

She answered in a terrifyingly blunt manner: "Does she even have any?"

"What kind of—what kind of...question is that?!"

What kind of person have you turned into?

"In any case, someone made her that way," Korra sneered. "Maybe it was one of them. Who knows? How do you know they care about her?"

"What—but—you just jumped into the situation without any regard for—"

She's a Red Monsoon member!" she shouted back as if that was a plausible answer to everything. "One of the worst!" She hesitated for a moment, an action that is not lost on Mako. "She...ended up dead herself. Because the spirits willed it." She spoke the last words in a whisper.

"Do you really believe that?" Mako scowled fiercely as a response, quickly rising to his feet.

"Yes, I do," she coldly responded, moving to leave, but Mako quickly barred her path.

"No. Don't go. Korra...look, you're so cynical now, whatever the hell happened to you? The death of one person couldn't have screwed you up this badly. If I had been killed like Asami had would you still be going around, seeking to get your hands onto the murderer at whatever the cost? Heck, you gave Viper's bending back, and for what?"

"You and Asami are two very different people," Korra hissed back noncommittally with the ice snapping like breaking bones clearly evident in her tone. And the barb bit deep into him, poking at the beating red thing nested snugly behind his ribcage, but he resolutely stared back, meeting her terrible glare that could have contained everything or nothing within its dark blue depths without flinching.

"We may be different, but that doesn't justify what you did to Anyu, whether she be a Red Monsoon member and murderess or not. At the end of the day, you've pretty much killed her. She's been damaged, by you, beyond repair."

"I'll say to you what I said to Beifong," Korra lowly retorted, "that she deserved being burned like that. Nothing more and nothing less."

"But at the end of the day she's going to die of her injuries!" Mako pounded at the wall with his fist, shouting at the stoically unimpressed Avatar, who by this point was simply grew more and more expressionless as he in turn grew more and more furious. Somewhere in the back of his mind Mako noted wryly to himself that their positions in this argument were seemingly reversed, given that Korra was usually the one who lost her composure first when they bickered, but the thick red haze of anger and frustration quickly bats that thought aside. "And she did die! And you literally just told me that you didn't want her to die!"

He was rambling now but he didn't even know what was coming out of his mouth anyways.

Korra didn't answer, but she lowered her blackened gaze to survey her ratty, worn brown sealskin boots planted firmly on the polished metal floor of the room.

"You let," the firebender struggled, gloved hands gripping the thick and dull iron bars to his side before he launched into his spiel once more, "you gave one of the city's most notorious criminals back their bending just to get revenge on one person. You let your emotions overtake you."

"Why, that's very hypocritical of you to say so, when you very clearly just lost your own spirits damned head a few moments before."

Korra didn't actually say "spirits damned" but Mako just decided to ignore the swear that actually did come flying out of her mouth right before her lower lip curled with contempt and she got right into his face.

"Why would you care about my business with Asami and Anyu, anyways?" she lowly asked, those oceanic blue eyes brimming with the crashing waves of mistrust and anger as some old memory apparently awakened in the recesses of her mind. "After what you outright said to me in the library? That there was, oh I don't know, apparently something wrong with me?"

Mako flinched violently this time. "...Korra, I didn't mean that and you know it."

"Then what," she bit back heatedly, "did you mean?"

"That—that you're not yourself anymore," Mako hastily changed the subject. "You haven't been, ever since Asami—"

"Don't even go there, you moron. And I'm still Avatar Korra," she tightly snarled, her lowered voice trembling with barely checked rage.

"Yes, you are. But Korra would have never resorted to something as contemptible as torture. Korra wouldn't have bent down so low into the possible ensnarement of murder. In any case, look where it landed you," Mako hardly retorted with all vanishing traces of fury coming back full force, his stony amber eyes gleaming with irritation.

"...You don't know that."

"You're being thrown out of this city, Korra—do you understand that?" His voice sharpened with frustration as he pounded heavily at the intricately carved thick metal wall next to him with his fist, angry tears starting to spring up at the corner of his eyes. "You're being thrown out because you let your feelings govern yourself; you're being thrown out because you burned half of someone's face off and seared their lungs with firebending; you're being thrown out because you're such a damn self-centered idiot and you tried to take matters into your own hands!"

"I didn't—"

"You didn't what? So you're the Avatar! You can do anything you want! You're the Avatar, so everything you do will not and should not be questioned! You're the Avatar, so you can run around the city and serve out your own form of destructive vigilante justice and then you can just sit back with your feet propped up onto a table while others clean up the mess you've made—"

"You know what? I'm done with you." She stiffly looked away before she said, "Get out of my way."

[ – you're killing me, killing me – ]

And Korra didn't say the last sentence furiously, she didn't say it with any form of malice or spite, but it was so blank and lifeless that Mako instantly backed away without another word, let her brush by him without another word, watched her stalk away without another word, and he slid down the metal wall to sit on the floor before he tucked his knees into his chest, put his head down and for the very first time since his parents died, cried.)

.

Two days later, Korra receives a small, cream-colored envelope with her name written on its flap in carefully drawn calligraphy. There is no other identifying mark but she can pretty much guess who sent it.

The letter begins with Dear Korra and it ends with I'm sorry but we won't work out and it's only two and a half paragraphs long but by the time Korra finishes reading it she's ready to blow Air Temple Island apart from its seams, the last airbenders and herself be damned.

The Avatar burns the pretty piece of stationary with its immaculate and neat characters written upon it in dried black ink up right afterwards, where it dissolves into dark gray bits of dust after a single spurt of orange flames shoots out from her hot palms.

The residual powder drifts down like little gray pieces of dirty snow and it lands in her hair and all over her midnight blue armbands, sprinkling the dark tones drawn directly from the earth and sea with flakes of salt and pepper.

Korra decides right then and there that she's seen so much ash that all of it would last for a thousand lifetimes to come and then promptly buries her head in her arms because she doesn't even want to think about going through everything she did to get to where she is again.

So she doesn't think about it.

So she thinks of anything but that.

So long as Asami doesn't die again.

...She can wait. She can wait.

(no she can't)

.

.

[fighting for a chance

i know now, this is who i really am]

Trivia

  • Mako ended up being more of a major character than anticipated.

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