that house of mine
oh girls. mako is terrible at watching. korra holds the umbrella. this isn't even the problem, you know.
legend of korra. spoilers for and the winner is... | korra/mako | 3,022 words | PG
It's easier to peel off her clothes at home, or on the island, Pema standing behind her with half-worried hands, as she wraps her in different clothes. They smell like smoke, of course, no different than her uniform, but Korra misses the heavier fabrics and the pull of her boots, small, weird things that feel like home.
"You're fine," Pema says quietly. Her fingers lull through her hair. It's loose now, wet even, but her mouth still feels like ash. It should mean a little more than that.
"Bolin?" she clears her throat, pulling back, "and Mako?"
"With Tenzin," the older woman's voice is dry. "Rules of the house." She shakes her head, pulling the mix of Korra's clothes and uniform into her arms. "I've always wanted a full house."
Korra smiles, or doesn't really, and thank spirits the little ones are all in bed or something but she follows Pema out of the room. The house is dark. The windows are open; it's a light breeze, strange and cool with the lazy snap of the guards shuffling outside. It feels so still, too careful even and she isn't sure what to think.
She still manages to find her footing and to go back Tenzin, who's just coming out of the spare room the boys are holed up in. They sort of do that awkward Tenzin-Korra thing where he looks at her, she looks at him, and they agree to shuffle it away.
Except she reaches out, ignoring the fact that Pema is lingering just behind them somewhere, touching his arm.
"Korra," he gives her this little, insufferable sigh.
"Yeah, I know," she says, and her mouth twists.
And then in she goes.
"You okay?" Bolin asks, later, much later, to the point where Korra is like yes and is too aware that he's being the best friend but trying to reassure himself all the same.
"Yeah," she says, stretching out. Mako's jacket billows out underneath her head and she's sort of fingering the blanket Bolin tossed at her face. They're listening to everything too - her, the island, the boys, the new space. Her guilt wavers her because remember, their home is gone too now.
"You?" she asks, and it's careful.
Mako scoffs. Over her, Bolin rolls his eyes.
"Fine, fine!" he flashes a grin and between them, Pabu flutters. "The digs are totally awesome, you know, and really different at night! And dude, the food! I bet breakfast is going to be awesome too."
"Yeah, yeah - breakfast."
She pinches the bridge of her nose.
"Go to sleep, Bo," comes Mako's voice, finally, and it takes her another minute to survey the fact that she's resting between the two of them.
There are no beds in the room. It was a monk's, one of them, or Tenzin's study-of-something-rather; she can't be sure. There are rooms, too many rooms, some that she can't go into (invasion of privacy, duh Korra) and too many doors that make it all walking her back into missing home.
Instead there are three mats, two for the brothers, one that's for her but not really for her (Tenzin's controlled disapproval, she's guessing) and it all makes her want to apologize until she's dizzy. She's the Avatar and sometimes, most times, she forgets that she's mostly just a kid and hates thinking about that.
"You okay?" Mako's voice is lower, hushed.
There is a pause. Pabu makes a sound. Next Bolin's snores fill the room. She waits, lips pursed. Maybe he's not faking this time around. It's been a day. It's been a long day. Her fingers curl and uncurl. They feel like they're pulsing too hard.
"Fine," she murmurs.
Her sigh is thick. "It's like, I don't know," and her voice curls; she turns onto her side, facing him. "It's like - all the things I've supposed to be training for, or trained for or, uh, even remember ... it's a mess in my head."
She can see him, you know. Mako defined in light. Like all the flashbacks. It makes her feel more than a little cheesy, maybe even heavy, and oh, the radio starts to filter and she remembers that her weird appendage of guards are downstairs too.
"I can't breathe in here," she mumbles.
His fingers are at her shoulder. She jumps a little. Her legs jut out of the blanket. Bolin snores; Mako just makes a sound.
"We could go out."
"Because that's a great idea."
He snorts. "I don't know what you want me to say." He's totally scolding her. Her mouth twists and she reaches over, punching his arm. There's a groan. "You're mature."
"Ugh, you're a jerk," she shoots back.
There is a sound again. A low huff of air - air, she thinks, she remembers. Her fingers twist, rolling into a few motions in front of her. Instinct proves to fire, nature to earth and habit, a fond habit, goes to water. She knows air is foreign and it's all just a mess in her head. She should be better, she knows. They are all expecting her to be better.
She looks up and Mako's turned to her, head balancing on his hand. She searches his face but the room is almost too dark, and she's really picking out lines by memory - the corner of his mouth, the three that crease just against his brow.
"You would be worried if I wasn't."
"Yeah." He clears his throat. Bolin is still soft behind them. He mumbles and they hear him twist in the blankets, half-nuzzling a snoring Pabu. "But that's not what I mean."
"I don't really feel like talking about it."
"I know," he says.
She feels her cheeks flush. Her hands rise and cover her face. She squeezes her eyes tightly and really, seriously, take a deep breath, Korra, one thing at a time.
But sometimes it's just too hard to lose the smoke, the taste of it that unfurls, deep in her throat. Everything feels a little dry. She pulls her hands away from her face, her fingers twisting in the air. Water manifests and turns, curling around her knuckles and then disappearing. It feels sharp, the loss.
"What would you do?" she asks suddenly.
Mako is quiet.
"I don't want it to be different for me," she continues and stretches her head back. It digs hard into his coat. "It's different for me."
"You don't think about these things," he murmurs.
She scoffs. "That's, like, something you would expect me to do."
"No, no," he says, and she swears, swears he's got to be blushing or something because it's dark and he's sort of breathy and if it were any other time, day, place, she would so find this funny.
Mako shifts though too and he's closer, his hand grazing the cusp of her elbow. She wants to move, maybe even recoil, but her body seems to remain curled into the blanket and jacket.
"Look," he says. "You don't talk about this stuff is what I mean - I get it. It's not something I would want to talk about too. I'm not good about talking about things ... I'm so used to listening, you know?"
"I know," she murmurs.
"We trust you." And it sounds so stupid coming out of his mouth because she knows he means it and she knows she needs him to mean it, but she feels a little lost when he says it because she feels more than a little lost.
"I fight with my fists," she says, and then again, "I fight with my fists and words and -," and she's sitting up with her impulses, grabbing his jacket from under her head.
He's looking at her, she sure. But she doesn't care - she doesn't need to care. It feels like the room is getting too tight. She isn't very good at staying still and inside.
Her mouth moves as she says something: need air and maybe he calls her name, low and cautious (Bolin, Bolin is there too) and there's the rustle of his things. He won't come after her. He can't come after her. You know better, she should say. She's loud. She's chaotic and that's why the fight just works.
Korra is always out the door faster.
Most of it is an impossible feeling - panic, but not panic, a charge, a surge of lifetimes that she isn't sure she quite understands. She knows that this will pass, like most things, but she doesn't want to be absorbed by any of these. It's just another piece that scares her.
It's easier to find Tenzin's training-contraption thing, the high, wide panels that are only secondary to the third or fourth time she got angry and just blew things up. The name's never mattered. Patience, not one of her virtues, but seriously, the leaf is just a little dumb. Okay, more than dumb.
Right now she just wants to move.
To be gentle then, her hands cup together and she nudges the panels into movement, rocking the earth into movement. It's okay, you know. Tenzin is always all about practicing more. They turn, slowly, then faster after another nudge and she watches for a moment.
They turn, they spin, but not quite the way she's used to. There's a precision when she trains; groping for instinct is something she struggles with too. She doesn't feel like she has the balance between instinct and training just yet. She lets herself wait though, watching the panels and cupping her hands once more.
She nudges the panels again.
Her feet follow after, soft, lighter, a mix of styles that are cunning enough to craft into her own. Her eyes close too and then she is aware, totally aware, of the cracks and snaps, the groans of the replacement (oh Tenzin) gears and poles. One grazes her back, just as the base of her spine, twisting at her hip. She catches her foot and manages to spin, shuffling off at the other side.
"You should come back inside."
Her lips are dry. "Shut up."
The panels start to slow. Mako emerges from the house, hands shoved into his pocket. The radio seems faint now. The guards usually leave her alone when she's within their vicinity.
"Seriously though - "
"Seriously though," she mocks and then pushes her hair from her face. She's forgotten she's pulled it down. It smells less like ash in the open air. "it's fine," she tells him. "I just - closed spaces, or something."
"I'm not going to push you."
She's defensive. "You're not." Her shoulders roll, then: "You can't," she rolls her eyes. "I just want to be outside. I don't want to think about Amon. I don't want to think about the fact that it's all changed and that's that. It's for tomorrow - or today. It's today, right?"
His laugh is low. He moves forward, balancing back on his heels. He sort of shuffles into a stumble and she laughs. The sound feels funny. There are knots in her belly and she presses a palm against it, twisting in the fabric of the shirt.
"You're crazy," he teases.
"You like me," she says without thinking.
"Yeah," he nods, rubbing his eyes. "Yeah, I do," he says even quieter, and she stares at him.
Her fingers curl.
"You don't need this right now," he says.
Her eyes narrow. "I don't need a lot of things right now," she snaps, and then she's leaning back against one of the panels, arms crossed. "But it's not like I can control it - I just - I want to talk to you without wanting to shove your face into the ground because you're being an awful, little prick."
He laughs and then laughs again, and it's caught somewhere in his throat and he steps forward, for her to only jerk back because she's not a terrible person and there's Asami. She can't be angry about Asami caring about Mako because honestly, she just wants the people she cares about to be happy. She wants to know the other girl too because this is a whole new, wide world and not all of it can be this much of a spiral because she can feel that intensity of love - it's a history, some of it hers, most of it the others. It's not as frightening as it wants to be, but it's still there.
A lot of things are still there.
"I'm not that bad," Mako says. Then his fingers touch her forehead, the side of her jaw. It's instinct to launch herself forward; keeping herself steady feels like recoiling.
"No," she agrees. She forces a smile. "Sometimes," she adds.
"It's a thing now anyway," he tells her.
And he gives her a look, kinda like Bolin does when it's one of those conversations about friends and family. It's a little more serious with Mako, heavier even - she feels herself flush and shake her head.
"You're not going to this alone," he says. "I know you'll probably try to since you're, well, you," and he says it with such affection that it surprises and scares her, the real warmth in his voice. It's open and honest and just the two of them; he swallows, "but we're here, Bo and I. I'm here. You can trust us, okay?"
"There's never a question in that," she says. She pushes at his arm. He laughs again and then, his fingers are at her jaw. Her head spins a little. "I mean - I do trust you. Why would you think otherwise?"
She swallows because his fingers catch her mouth and her hand (because it's stupid, so stupid) fists right through his shirt. Her fingers squeeze too.
This is trouble, she thinks. That's instinct. This is trouble and she doesn't need more trouble.
"You should hear it," he says finally.
Mako doesn't look away.
Then this is it:
She is pretty sure she's just shoved her mouth onto his again, just like the last time, because everything in her head is unraveling and whoa, whoa Tenzin is so going to kill them - this is the middle of her training contraption thing that she could totally break all over again.
But this is a different Mako, this is a sharper Mako, and his mouth is both dry and wet, a mass of contradictions as his teeth scrape over her lip and she can no longer feel the panels against her back. She bites, she bites and it's the rush of her own body, as if it's all too new.
He makes a sound and she swallows it. Her hips thrust forward and he's pushing her back into the panel and she's sure, so sure they can both feel her leg slip between this. It's bones, it's flesh, and her nails raking just under the hem of his shirt that her breathing is no longer panicked and all she can taste, she swears, is air.
Mako slips into a gasp. His forehead drops into hers.
"Damn it," he breathes.
"Yeah," she says, "yeah," she says harder, then coughs and she's folding herself back into the panel. Her hands tremble and she fists them against the back.
They still press against each other.
"It's different now," she tells him, out loud, and his eyes are too bright for her to really feel anything near sanity and really, wouldn't this be the world going mad all over again.
"It's complicated," he agrees.
Over his shoulder, the house comes into view. The lights are faint, the radio too - there's a laugh, not hers, not his, even though her lips still feel unsteady. Her teeth pick at her skin. Her throat tightens even just a little bit more.
"I don't know what to say," she confesses, and Pema's words are stumbling back into her head, failure wavering. But it's not important. It's not important, she thinks.
Mako pulls back, ducking his gaze.
"I know how that feels," he mumbles.
Neither of them want to say it. It isn't time. It isn't time. She thinks those words will actually, physically hurt. It's dramatics. It's an inherent sense of self that she does not want.
But then there isn't anything else to say.
This is a simpler problem.
Bolin finds her in the morning.
Meelo is trying to eat Jinora's book. Pages are sticking to his teeth. It's not one of her favorites (if it were, she's sure, so sure, that the eldest of Tenzin's children would probably string her brother up onto a pole, the one by their parents' room, in some sort of impressive display of i'm so your older sister dude that Korra would so admire) and Meelo is giggling as his sister half-heartedly tries to pull it way.
They watch them. Then Bolin nudges her.
"Am I gonna be worried?" He's halfway into a smile because it's Bolin, and that's what he does. But he's asking about the two of them, about her and Mako and the unit they are now.
"No." Her voice is hoarse. "No, seriously."
It's not like that, she wants to say, will say eventually, maybe or maybe not. It doesn't matter though.
She leans a little into Bolin. Meelo shrieks. Jinora sighs and flicks her hand, holding her brother lazily into midair. It's all more and more just home for her. She wants to like this - no, no, she does like this. It's not her parents, she misses her parents, but it's the closest to a stability that she can have. That she wants to have.
Mako appears. Before or later, it doesn't matter, she sees him and that's that, really. He doesn't smile, and she doesn't smile, her mouth twitching just a little. He takes a breath and she sees that, watching as he leans against the wall, crossing his arms to look down.
She slides an arm around Bolin's waist. He sighs first.
"I promise, okay?" she says.
Korra understands she has to mean it.