EDIT: Oh GOD, i feel so stupid... never checked to make sure all was well and formatted... Fanfiction messed up all my horizontal line breaks and it all became a confusing mush of perspectives. There were like a million partitions (okay more like 30 :p) and it took me forever to find and fix them! Why didnt i check sooneeeerr. I AM SO EMBARRASSED! SORRY GUYS! Hope i didnt put you guys off :|
A/N: Its odd. This idea was odd. It's a very different theme (and writing style) im trying out. Im not fully satisfied with it, but it needed to be written; so I wrote it. Feedback would be really, really nice. I don't know if I conveyed my intentions clearly. I'd like to hear your take(s) on it. This is slightly AU (alternate universe-ish) set in the first book, so it wont spoil anything that comes later.
All I know is that I feel Legend of Korra's ending left a lot to be desired.
Some spoilers in the (rather disconnected) rant below (if you haven't seen book 4, I recommend scrolling down till you see hyphens):
My issue is not with Korrasami, its with the incompleteness: it seemed like the end of a season, not a series. I felt a lot of the characters became needless and useless. Especially those that held such potential: like Mako, General Iroh, Zuko, Katara, Toph. They introduced them (again) but they didn't utilize them.
I don't know. I liked the show. A lot. But it still felt lacking.
My issues with Kuvira, yeesh. Don't get me started. She was badass, loathsome and then one lecture from korra switched her mindset? No. Does NOT happen. I feel the villains were all stronger than the main casts. And that was sad. I think Amon (and Zaheer) were some of the coolest characters of the show, so they really should have acted a little more villainy, I suppose. SO this story (fanfic) originated from that frustration.
Hope that made sense for whoever stuck around to read it.
AND how does one even go through 4 major civil wars without a single casualty that really counts? From the main cast I mean?
ANYWAY, read on and hopefully leave a review :)
DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN LEGEND OF KORRA OR ANY OF THE CHARACTERS. THE PLOT IS MINE.
There was a reason the avatar was only master of manipulating the physical elements. The alternative was something altogether too inhumane to consider.
Mako lightly, aimlessly ran his finger on the inside of her wrist. She leaned against him, head on his shoulder, neatly tucked into his side. Here, where no words were necessary, where there was no war to fight, they were at peace. He and Korra both were rather strong personalities in their own right; it was only natural that their conflicting opinions cause them to butt heads. He had grown up, altogether too early, with two duties; protect and survive. For both a protector, and a survivor, the Avatar was a nightmare to be involved with. Lethal danger followed her like a stray, starving dog would the man who once fed it.
Mako was a pragmatist; his little brother was all he had left, and he would do anything, no matter how morally ambiguous to protect Bolin. Korra was an optimist; she was The Avatar, the Savior, and she had been sworn to the path of true righteousness. He was careful; he planned down to every single second. She was impulsive; controlled by anger, overconfidence and a stubborn-streak wider than the North Pole. He was quiet and somewhat awkward; she was loud and confident. He had seen hardship from its core; she was sheltered. He was calm and collected; she was wildfire. He was nothing; she was the Avatar.
In the few months they had known Korra, Bolin and Mako had been placed in ten times the dangerous situations they had faced in the eleven or so odd years they had spent on the streets of Republic City. She stripped him of all his self-restraint; caring for her was one of the most difficult things he'd had to deal with. He'd yelled at her at volumes that he'd never even have believed himself capable of. She infuriated him, and terrified him, and challenged everything he was, but god damn it, he loved the brash, reckless woman even as she slowly drove him mental.
"Mako?" her blue eyes shone up at him in the glow of the setting sun, burning fierce warmth and conviction that could easily have rivalled the sun. He noted, absently, that eyes that blue shouldn't possess the ability to scorch and smolder the way hers did.
"Hm?" he continued tracing the vein on her wrist, occasionally pressing down to feel her pulse. Moments like this, it grounded him to her; a reminder that even the Avatar was human.
"Not that I'm complaining," she started, only to laugh quietly, not wanting to break the tranquility of the instant. "well- actually I am- but you're brooding." Times like these, so safe, content and complete, were few and far in between- especially with the recent frightening events that Amon and the Equalist's uprising had triggered- she wanted to make the most of them. "Again." She added as an afterthought.
The corner of his mouth pulled upwards, almost unconsciously. He chuckled under his breath. "Sorry."
"What has you looking all sexy and mysterious this time?" she asked, a sly smile playing on her lips, and automatically- smooth, suave- Mako sputtered on whatever he had opened his mouth to say, and choked on his spit. She laughed, loudly this time- the one Mako attributed to her- head thrown back, eyes closed, voice reverberating. He forgot what he had been about to say, he forgot that he had wanted to say anything, he forgot his awkward self-consciousness; he just looked at her. There was something so powerful about the pure strength of her emotion.
"You're beautiful." He hadn't made a conscious decision to say it. He hadn't planned it. He hadn't even known he intended to mention it. This was what terrified him most about being with Korra, he couldn't predict his own reactions to her. Being around her, changed him, and he wasn't sure how to deal with it. This state of not knowing, scared him.
Her cheeks turned pink, an odd look for the brash girl, but he found it endearing. His strangely coloured- amber, gold, ochre- eyes softened. Fire met ice, and he moved in to kiss her. Korra lifted her hands to tangle into his perpetually present scarf. Their lips touched once, twice, and he pulled back to look at her, before leaning in a third time.
Mako jumped back startled, eyes snapping open in shock. Korra looked back equally mortified. His lips quivered as he tried not to laugh. Her eyes narrowed and she withdrew from his embrace punching him roughly in the arm. She folded her arms, half annoyed, half in embarrassment, as he laughed, openly now. She pouted in the way of a child, and he was again struck by the cuteness of it all.
He reached into the pocket of his pants, pulling out the small item he'd been carting around for some time now. It was one of the last things he had of his parents, but his instinct was telling him that the time to part with his mother's ring was now.
Mako had her attention, the movement had drawn Korra's eye. He extended his right hand, picking up her left, and opening it. With his other hand, he gently pressed the ring into her open palm, and closed her fingers over it. She unfolded it curiously, looking at the item he had seen and held a million times since the day he had lost his mother and father.
He, however, looked only at her.
He saw the glimmer of curiosity, replaced by surprise, shock, and then joy. She liked it. He was amazed at the amount of relief that simple realization afforded him.
"Mako… it's beautiful…" Her voice was hushed, awed, as she looked up to meet his eyes. "It's as if it's alive... what… where'd you get this?"
He lowered his eyes to the ring she cradled in her hands. It was small, a plain flat circle of fiery gold. The colour of soft flames. Its surface was engraved with intricate curves depicting fire and bending. The way it caught and reflected light was akin to the flickering of flames. He was suddenly glad that it was her he had given it to; that she had picked up the loving detailing and the subtle beauty. He found it unexpectedly hard to give voice to the emotion brimming and overflowing within him. He couldn't tell her now that it was his last memento of his mother. It felt as if it would overload and warp this perfect moment. He was afraid she wouldn't accept it, if she knew. "i… uh… found it. At a shop." His voice was quiet.
"Oh, Mako." She threw her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly. "Thank you." She pulled back and slipped it onto the middle finger of her left hand. Both their eyes lingered on it.
"Thank you. It's… breathtaking." She repeated, sincerely. His eyes were molten, intense in the rising moon, as they lifted from the ring to the one who meant so much to him. She felt her breath catch. This time she was the one who leaned in towards him. His eyes drifted shut, as he raised a hand to her cheek.
This time, the interruption was the resounding crashing of the door into the wall as Bolin announced his presence.
Mako and Korra sprang apart on the couch. Bolin's eyes darted in between the two. He cringed. "Uh… I guess sorry wouldn't cut it?" His green eyes were filled with remorse. Mako groaned, and Korra muttered under her breath about pounding the earth-bender ten feet under.
"Leave, Bolin." Mako almost growled, running a frustrated hand through his hair.
"Uh… sorry bro. Can't. Well, I mean I can, but Korra has to go too. Um I mean, Tenzin sent me. Did I mention before? Should have started with that, huh? Wow. The air is inteeeense." Bolin blew out a great big puff of air, nervous.
Mako closed his eyes and slammed his head back into the couch, defeat and annoyance emanating off him in waves. Korra got up, unwillingly. "I should go. Uh, bye Mako." She said awkwardly, not knowing how to give him the goodbye she wanted in front of Bolin.
He opened his amber eyes, giving her a small smile. "Bye, Korra."
Bolin watched her leave, somewhat open-mouthedly."She looked kind of dressed up. Pretty. Un-Korra like. I mean not that she's not pretty, but she doesn't normally look that… girly. Hey, was that a dress?!"
Mako shot him an unamused glare, choosing to retire to his room before he cut out his little brother's naïve tongue and handed it to him.
It was early in the evening, yet. Korra was trying to concentrate and get in some meditation for Tenzin, the imperative word here being trying. Not only did she get the whole spirit guide/air bender-y connection, but, well she had company. First it was Meelo's 'unusual' utilization of all the –rather smelly- 'air' his body let out, then it was the sisters arguing.
Her eye twitched as she struggled to keep them closed and her legs crossed. She exhaled trying to focus: out, in, out in.
It was working, so predictably the door crashed open shattering the silent mojo she'd built up.
"WHAT?" she bellowed. Inner peace be damned.
"Heyiie, Korra." Bolin crowed excitedly, gaze flitting around the room.
She glowered at him, not having quite forgiven him yet for yesterday. "What are you looking for?" she managed through gritted teeth.
"Mako. Where is he?" He looked to her finally.
"Don't know. I haven't seen him since…the day before yesterday" She deadpanned at the last word.
"Huh." Bolin made a face.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Korra asked.
"We-ell, his room was locked, and I haven't seen him around lately. So I figured he'd be here with you. Since, you know, it's after work hours. But he's not, so I really don't know where else he'd be. He doesn't exactly have many hobbies or friends"
Korra's mouth pulled down a little at the corner. "Asami?" Even though the two of them had made their peace- the memory of being shot down for the beautiful non-bender- it still stung a little.
"Oh yeeeah. Why didn't I think of that? I'll call her." As he stepped out, Korra exhaled sharply: out, in, out in. She was not going to be jealous. They still had a right to be friends, so what if they were ex- whatevers. Peace, peace, peace, she chanted to herself.
Another loud exhale later, she closed her eyes and drifted off.
Mako awoke to darkness and a headache. It was pitch black and he couldn't make out even an inch in front of him. That was odd, considering the last he remembered, he was in his bed. Maybe he was lucid dreaming. It had happened once or twice before, but that made the headache an anomaly. If it was a dream, he could make it go away, and he'd tried even though it made him feel sort of foolish.
So where was he? His neck was stiff, his back cramping, it was an odd position. He was lying with his full weight on his right arm pinned underneath him. He strained to get up but found himself unable. He frowned to himself. Something wasn't right. He couldn't move, he was frozen.
"H-Hey." He tried to shout out, his voice came out a strained murmur, with more effort and far less output than he expected. There was no reverberating or echo. There was no noise or reaction at all, except his own whisper. He took in a deep breath, panicking would do nothing. He'd wriggled out of tight situations before; street life was either make or break. He could handle this.
He tried to categorize what his senses allowed him; he was blind, nor was there a scent, or tangible taste to the air; it was eerily quiet, so silent that he could almost hear his own pulse; he couldn't move, but the ground he was lying on was hard but flat. There was nothing that he could use as a clue to his location. It was… odd. To say the very least.
Okay then. He tried to summon a fist full of fire, something small that wouldn't be too glaringly visible were he being watched. With some difficulty, he clenched his fist and breathed out, willing the flame to flicker to life. Also nothing. His mind felt sluggish too, the headache was not helping. Had he been drugged? What the hell was going on?
"Korra." Tenzin's voice was urgent. "Wake up."
She pried an eye open. She was annoyed and she was tired, sleepy and ANNOYED. She was sick of being told what to do, and her stupid boyfriend couldn't even be bothered to call (or reply) and tell her he'd be too busy to give her any attention, and she was irritated with herself for being so damn irritated by that. It happened from time to time. He'd be so involved with whatever case Lin Beifong had him working that he'd forget (and drop) everything until it was done. Girlfriend who?
"Mmpf." She growled, panda-bear like, as she burrowed deeper into her bedcovers.
"Korra." Tenzin's voice was sterner than before. "It's Mako."
Her other eye opened, as the monk's tone and words registered, and she sat up in bed, worry written over her face.
Mako didn't know how long he'd been in the ditch, as he'd taken to calling it. The dark had begun stripping everything away from him. Time, voices, hope, everything. He didn't even know where he was or who had him here. His mental clock could hardly work with no sign or indicator. In the days- weeks? - he'd been here, he hadn't seen a single person. He was starving but it was no comparison to how thirsty he was. Little by little he'd gotten some of his movement back but with the lack of food and water, he was too weak to do anything. He laughed, a feeble attempt that came out sounding as such, there was nothing to do. He'd finally realized once whatever drug was in his system trickled out, that the reason he'd been lying so heavily on his right arm was due to the chain and shackle that held him to the ground. Initially, it had seemed like a good thing, and he'd spent much of his energy trying to rip it from the ground and regain his mobility but as rations and energy proved scarce, drained, he'd given up.
He was no water bender, but even he knew that water was harder to survive without than food. He and Bolin knew how to deal with a shortage of food, but water hadn't ever been an issue.
Bolin. The name was a sharp pang in his head. Was his brother going out of his mind with worry? They had to be looking for him, right? Was he going to die here? Who would look after his little naïve brother after he was gone?
Korra hadn't been sleeping well. She'd taken to being out at all hours, restless, frenzied pacing. She'd been out of her mind these past weeks. There was no word from Mako. It was like he'd literally just vanished. None of them had seen him, not since the night he'd given her that ring. They had all found it odd that he'd been absent for about two days, but Mako had had such phases before, where he'd be so submersed in work that he'd forget the world. Then, Beifong had called, wondering why the devoted cop hadn't been showing up. That was five days after he'd disappeared… two weeks ago.
Bolin was practically catatonic. Not that was strange… He'd just lost, without notice, the only stable thing in his life; his practical, level-headed big brother. They all had. Mako was the rock- just as quiet and awkward as one too. She tried to smile, tried joking retorts in her mind, all to remind herself- desperately – that it had to be a big misunderstanding; that he wasn't- couldn't be- missing. But three weeks was a lot of time, especially for someone unaccounted for.
Strangely, she found solace in Asami. She understood what Korra was going through, on the same level. Bolin's grief was understandably the worst, and pretending they could understand Mako's role in his life would have been a lie. The firebender had been all, father, brother, best-friend all rolled into a protectors bundle to the earth bender.
The girl's talked late into the nights, waiting up for some news- anything- from Tenzin and Beifongs collaborative efforts. So far it had been fruitless, but out of it they had gotten to know each other well. Together they could almost handle Bolin, get him to eat, sometimes talk, but he was withdrawn and neither pushed too hard, afraid of his fragile state of mind. Two entire weeks, he had been manically driven and would stay out all hours looking for leads, trails anything; but more often than not, he'd return in dejection, head hanging. Of the two of them, Mako had always been the tracker, the do-er. Bolin had always just been back up, and now he was drifting, anchorless, lost.
The first thing he'd been provided some… dark while ago, had been a bowl of water. He had not heard anyone enter as he drifted in and out of consciousness; not that it made much difference, he could see nothing either way. There was for the first time, a scent to the air; cool, damp, earthy. It seemed overpoweringly strong. He reached a shaking arm out trying to locate the source. He almost knocked it over in his blind searching. It was a medium-sized earthen bowl that made a small splashing sound as his hand brushed it. The first sound other than his breathing or clothes rustling- or his own voice if he was desperate enough- that he'd heard in what seemed like forever. It was deafening. He grabbed it clumsily, eagerly in his left hand and brought it to his mouth, spilling some on himself in his haste. He drained it greedily, in one go; not paying mind, as he usually would have, that his stomach had been empty in a while and it might not settle well.
He had swallowed, feeling a bit of ease returning to his limbs. His mind sharpened just a bit. It was easier to breathe immediately. The minute it hit his stomach, however, was a different story. He felt nausea take over and he retched immediately. It was excruciating considering his completely empty system. Tears spilled over in his eyes, as he threw up all the precious water he'd consumed. It burned his throat, mixed with undiluted stomach acid. He coughed as he turned over, collapsing once more.
More time had passed since then, he made factless estimates, assuming that at least three times the initial period had gone by. He thought of the word time a lot, even though it meant nothing to him anymore. Time had become like a word too oft-repeated, it lost meaning, stopped seeming like a real word, the more he used it. It could have been a month or more; he'd have no way of telling. The only thing he had to keep track was of his growing hunger and excessive weakness.
She could feel the tears pouring down her face, dripping into Asami's hair, and likewise as they both cried. Heaving sobs. It had been too long. There had been no traces, no leads. It was as if he had never existed, never been there, if it wasn't for the ache in her chest, she'd almost believe it.
Tenzin looked drawn, overworked, and he probably was. Lin and Korra had been investigating into the Equalists, but Korra's desperation had just triggered more anti-bender, anti-avatar feelings. Amon, had even refused to comment at her accusations. His blank expressionless mask had looked down, condescension dripping without a source, as she was dragged back by the Chief of Police.
Bolin was this close to snapping, himself. He had nearly attacked a non-bender when they said that his filthy fire-bending brother probably deserved whatever killed him. He had bellowed furiously, calling up a violent tremor, only broken by Tenzin knocking him out with a sharp gust of wind that threw him back into a wall.
Needless to say, animosity was at an all new high.
The Avatar felt useless. Her hope, and optimism was fading. She couldn't keep up with everything. She had taken to escaping and hiding in sleepless hours at end. Their days were divided into searching and hiding. And stirring up mass-frenzy apparently.
There was absolutely nothing to go on. They had broken into his room some time ago, and had found absolutely fucking nothing. The bed was made, windows unopened, room untouched. Everything was as Mako kept it, immaculate. Except for the dust that had accumulated in the three months.
That's what it felt like, really. That dust was gathering on all of them and their weary anguished hearts.
There was nothingness.
He stopped trying to hear his own voice, just to prove he wasn't deaf, or dead.
He stopped hoping that he would be rescued.
And that was painful. More than the physical discomfort, sometimes. He remembered Asami's smile, Bolin's pointless rambling, Korra's laughter. Each was a physical wound to his heart and mind. A burning that had nothing to do with his disconnect to his fire. That was a separate entity altogether.
Deprivation. He realized what he was being put through. He didn't understand why, or by whom. Was it the triad? Amon and the Equalists? One of the many other enemies he'd made in protecting? He sometimes idly cooked up conspiracies and foolish elaborate rescue plans.
Weakness. Weakness. All he knew, his only connection to the outside was when he felt exceptionally adrift, as if he'd die any moment of this weird listlessness. That's when he'd wake up to a strange smell of food and water in the air. It was a repeat of the instance with the water. He would greedily tear into whatever meagre portion he was afforded every timeless interval, and his body would reject it. He was surrounded in his own filth. He began to feel hunger and thirst less. He began to feel the strain of his muscles less with every interval.
Blankness. The absence of thought. He welcomed it.
The sixth month he was gone, Korra punched a wall after yet another dead end lead into the Fire Nation. It shattered both the wall and her hand, but no one as much as startled. They were all at wits end.
Bolin had aged tremendously in the last half year. He was quieter, thinner, waner. Older. He quietly reached for her left hand, silently conveying his request to inspect it. Silence had become a common medium for the Krew… the sorry bunch that was left.
He froze as his sight hit the ring, the one she hadn't taken off since. For the first time in a while, Bolin opened his mouth to speak first. "W-Where did you…?"
Korra looked down at it, a small, sad smile on her face. "Mako…" she murmured. "Why do you ask?"
"You don't know…" He looked at her in some shock. "Ofcourse you don't." he realized, still speaking mostly, dazedly to himself.
"What?" she felt curious for the first time since he'd been gone. The guilt of successive failure usually dampened everything else.
"It was our mothers." Bolin swallowed. "It was her wedding ring."
Korra pressed a shaking hand to her mouth, feeling the tears well up. Exhausted from the struggle of trying to be strong for so long, she gave in to all her anger, guilt and frustration as she cried.
The first time Mako saw another person in Agni knows how long, it was Korra and he was torn between relief that she was here to despair that she was here.
The barely there light was blinding, but he'd know that silhouette anywhere. He staggered up into a sitting position, and then shielded his eyes trying to get a better glimpse.
"Kor?" his voice was quiet and it shook, as he took in her frame against the light. "Thank heavens-"
That was as far as he got though, when a burning red flame darted past him, illuminating his cage- it was smaller than he expected- four closed off walls, narrowly missing him. "Korra, what the hell?" his voice was raspy from disuse.
"Use your bending." It was her voice, but it was colder than he'd ever heard it. "Defend yourself." And the assault had continued. He could hardly move, the chain restricted him to a small radius and he was too weak to effectively bend to ensure his own safety. He tried, but the means and technique was slipping through his fingers For the first time in ages, he had his senses and it was all agonizing white hot pain. He could smell burnt flesh, his own burnt flesh, he could hear her angry screams as she launched attack after attack, and he felt the sweltering heat as it marked him over and over again.
It was agony.
It was despair.
So long he had lamented not feeling, now he would do anything to get it back. The blankness was surely better than this, this…
What was going on? He didn't know. It didn't add up. It couldn't have been Korra. But it couldn't have been anyone else. It was her voice. Her movements. It was her. But it wasn't.
It was repetitive: cyclic. He knew a week had passed- atleast he attributed the interval to a week- because he had something to mark it by now.
He was attacked for what seemed forever while it lasted. Then a time period later, Korra would return. Her voice would be gentler, cooler. Her scent, so familiar, yet so out of place, battering. She would heal him with water until the pain went away, and she would leave behind food and water. He was hardly ever hungry but he would eat. To survive.
It would still hurt. Phantom pains. He knew the condition.
A smaller interval later, she would return. And she would inflict a fiery inferno of wrath on him once more.
He was slipping. Unable to differentiate between healed and unhealed. Hurt and unhurt. Hungry and not.
He was lost.
"Tenzin there has to be something. THERE has to be." Korras voice was desperate. "Its been EIGHT months. The avatar state doesn't help. I cant focus enough to ask anyones advice. I cant commune with the spirits. I don't know Tenzin, please help me, I cant do this, I need to do something."
"Korra. Please. You cannot slip into despair like this." Tenzins voice was weary. "we are trying. But maybe its prudent to stop. Like you said its eight months. Lin has presumed him dead. Maybe we should accept it too."
"No." her voice was a scream. "NO. NO. NO." her voice grew deeper and began to overlap with the shadows of her previous lives, as her eyes flickered a glowing white.
"Korra!" Tenzins voice was alarmed.
The ring, the last memento she had of him, drifted off her finger and floated into the air, like she floated a foot off the floor. It glowed white and then gold. Then, both the ring and the bearer collapsed to the ground, dead still.
It became normal.
He began to expect her arrival. It seemed the places he'd been branded, the ones that no longer existed physically, throbbed more when she was close to coming to him.
Sometimes it wasn't fire. Sometimes she felt different as she closed the earth over him in small cramped spaces, smaller than his sense-less cage.
He really thought he preferred running out of air in tight enclosed spaces to being burnt.
He didn't even yell or protest anymore.
It was easier to accept it in silence.
Silence was easy. Blankness was easy.
Baby Rohan was born. The celebrations were muted.
The Krew was adrift.
The Equalists attacked.
War was imminent.
Nothing. Still nothing.
It continued. The fire. He had long since stopped trying to bend to defend himself.
He accepted it now.
He knew now.
This had to be Amon.
At least he believed he did.
He had no proof.
It looked, smelled, sounded like Korra.
But it wasn't.
The gut instinct that led him to be a cop told him it was Amon who was behind this.
The disgust he held towards the ability to manipulate the elements.
The conditioned response of expecting pain.
But he didn't really know how sane he was anymore.
They held a funeral.
Bolin left the city.
Amon held up his ultimatum, the avatar for the end of war.
They hadn't given in, though karma knows Korra had wanted to. She was dispirited. She wanted the misery to end.
They fought, they still fought the uprising but she sometimes wondered why. Pointless suffering. Her suffering, theirs. What was the point? What was the difference? It wouldn't save Mako.
A grating sound marked the opening as Korra stepped in. But for the first time, the room was properly illuminated.
Mako cringed away from the light. It was too much. His eyes watered as he blinked away. The adjustment was slow after the eon of darkness but it happened.
As he took it in the sight before him, he blinked again. And raised a hand to rub at his overwhelmed eyes.
'W-who are you?' He thought it, but he didn't voice it. It had been too long since he spoke. He wasn't sure he remembered how.
"Im Ellen." Her face was soft, body feminine, red hair, green eyes. Her hair was tied similar to Korra. But it wasn't her. She was dressed in earth kingdom garb. Behind her was a young girl, similar colouring and features- clearly related- clad in water tribe clothing.
His mind sluggishly processed this.
"You're free to go." The voice was Korras. The person nowhere to be seen. In the light, he could finally see his prison. He located the source of sound. Mechanical speakers.
He shook his head.
He half smiled.
He had known.
But not really.
Amon was dead. Tarrlok had killed his brother and himself once their bloodbending schemes were revealed.
But what perturbed Korra wasn't that she had nearly died. Or lost her bending. What worried her was what Amon said as she nearly killed him.
He had smiled almost benignly and said, "You will realize your sins, Avatar. The world does not need you. Nothing good comes of power and those too weak to use it."
She had wanted to kill him. But she was the Avatar. Aang had taught her there were worse fates than death. And they had witnessed his just desserts come to him.
But his last lines to her haunted Korra.
Even as peace established once more. Even as life began to crawl on.
It took him longer than he thought. He wasn't sure where he was, when he finally was set free. The openness, the freedom, the assault from his senses was overwhelming.
It took him time to get used to it again. To walking. To be able to see and hear. To be able to be fully conscious.
They let him clean himself before he left. Then they set him free.
No explanation. No reason for his suffering. He didn't understand.
But he moved on.
He was weak. He stumbled. He tired easily.
He looked around, he roamed, he tried to find his way home to Republic City. He used his senses; all except one. He didn't talk. He couldn't.
There was another too. An extension of himself rather than a sense. His bending. He could. He didn't want to.
She couldn't believe her eyes.
He was paler than a ghost. He was much thinner; gaunt. The bones of his face were especially prominent, it gave an extra edginess to his appearance. His long untamed hair seemed darker against his pallor. The depths of his eyes were even fierier than she remembered.
Other than his weight he was seemingly unharmed.
She screamed or maybe she cried. She didn't remember. All she knew is that she leapt towards him and he cringed away from her.
Cringed. Like a frightened stray expecting to be hit.
Tears filled her eyes. He just stared at her, looking as if he didn't quite recognize her. He tilted his head sideways. Her scream had called over the air benders and Asami.
Relief and joy was palpable. Asami rushed to him and threw her arms around him. He staggered back from her weight. He did not make a move to return her embrace but he did not flinch away. He allowed her to bury her face in the crook of his neck
It was as if Korra had been deprived of breath the year and a half he'd been gone. Now she could breathe but all she could feel and replay was the aching pain in her heart as he flinched away from her.
He still did not talk. He did not fire-bend. He felt no association to it.
He felt no need for it.
He was physically unharmed, but the pain still raged within him. Mental, physical, emotional.
He did not allow himself to be touched. Except by Asami. He wasn't sure why but he did not react as offensively to her touch as he did everyone else's. He found it harder to understand things these days. His brain seemed to have lost its capacity and instinct to react appropriately. Everyone was glad to see his return but he felt a physical and mental distance from the Krew and other former friends. He was not glad, or even happy.
He felt betrayed.
How many times had they saved strangers? So successfully. Risking so much.
They had never even found him.
Her Mako, her beautiful friend. The kind protective boy was broken.
They had no idea how to fix him.
He let no one in. He kept a physical and mental distance. He did not talk. He did not allow himself to be touched. He was drawn. He did not eat much. He was physically weak.
They had called Katara over from the Water tribe to inspect him. The minute she had called the healing properties to the water in close proximity to him, he had flinched away. There was fear in his eyes. More emotion than they had seen in a while.
He seemed to react that way to only two things: any form of bending, and Korra.
He reacted positively to only one thing: Asami. He relaxed around her. She got him to do things like eat properly and go out. He looked kindly at her. He let her touch him.
She felt devoid of hope. She was hurt more by this avoidance than even having once acknowledged his death.
She did not know that was possible.
The first time Mako smiled since his return was when Bolin returned.
Bolin bawled like a baby. Like he once would have. The rambling, sweet boy was back the instant he set eyes on his brother. The hard façade crumbled instantly and he held on to Mako and cried for hours. Mako did not flinch. This was Bo. His brother, his reason for living.
He smiled at his brother. But he did not speak. He couldn't.
He also did not bend even when Bolin asked. He didn't want to.
Katara believed that Mako had been tortured through bending. Repeatedly. And then healed. That was how he was still whole physically.
Mentally he was not.
Korra believed Katara when she said he might never be, again.
It took Mako another year to begin to relax and regain his strength.
He began to talk again, but he was quieter than even before.
He did not bend.
He was afraid of the evil it held.
The year Mako started talking again was the year he stopped flinching away from Korra's proximity.
She felt the faintest vestige of hope.
He was still wary though. But he would nod and occasionally hold a conversation.
Today was one of those days.
He was sitting by her, a few feet of distance away. Asami had encouraged him to.
Korra was still hurt by this but she was also grateful to Asami for having slowly healed him to at least a recognizable shadow of the person he was. She was more grateful to her than she would ever be able to express.
"You still have it."
This was the first time he had started the conversation. She startled. "What?"
"The ring." He smiled ruefully at her as he looked down at her hands.
"Yeah…" she said quietly, sadly. "Its all I have left of you."
He looked away.
"Will you tell me why, Mako?"
"You never found me, Korra. Now, im not who I was then. And I don't know how to be." His words were equally quiet. She swallowed as he continued. "That bridge was burned while I waited."
She breathed in, shakily. She could feel tears prick her eyes. She'd never been a crier before him.
"Now I know that the elements can mean only one thing: corruption. They are not meant to create or save. They destroy. They destroyed me."
She looked up, gasping. It was beginning to click. Everything.
"I don't mean that you are corrupt, Korra. You are the Avatar." His words were immediately softer, kinder. Reminiscent of the Mako that once was. "But all power does is destroy. Both those who have it and those who don't. I finally understand the imbalance, Kor. I don't know if that can be cured by an Avatar. Or anyone, really. And I don't want to be part of this anymore."
He began to get up, Korra almost reached to touch him, grab his wrist. He looked at her. His gaze was still wary.
It killed her.
"Amon?" Her voice was hushed, subdued.
"Amon." He affirmed, nodding. "I understand him now."
He smiled at her and then walked away from her. And she understood that it was final. A goodbye.
The boy who had been hers, the boy who had given her the ring and his love- that boy- was gone.
In his place was a man- a broken man- who did not believe in hope or balance.
Maybe he believed that Chaos was the natural order of things.
She would never know.
He wouldn't tell her.
There was a reason the avatar was only master of manipulating the physical elements. The alternative was something altogether too inhumane to consider.
And that's a wrap, folks. This was different for me. But I enjoyed writing it even as it depressed me.
I don't know how pleased I am by it. But its done.
(EDIT: Again sorry for the formatting issues of the previous version)
And yes that was a reference to Zaheer. I don't know, ive found him infinitely fascinating. How such a civil composed man can be so given to chaos as a ruling force. Complex but so chillingly fascinating. In an alternate version, he was the force behind this mindbending, but it seemed more Amons cup of tea.
Anyway, please do be kind enough to leave your comments and opinions.
The untameable shrew.