Charity

After a particularly grueling practice, three benders simultaneously slump onto an old couch. The training has been more and more vigorous each day. With the Pro-bending championship coming up, the stakes are higher than ever. Bolin lifts his arms and sniffs his armpit. Then he promptly wrinkles his nose in disgust.

"I smell like a diseased platypus-bear that's been sweltering in the sun for a week," he says. While Mako looks thoroughly grossed-out, Korra snorts and sniffs her own armpit.

"If you smell like that," she states, "then I smell like a diseased platypus-bear's crap that's been rolled in mud then left in the sun for a week." She and Bolin laugh at their own expense, but Mako stands and walks toward the apartment's cruddy bathroom.

"I'm going to clean up," he reaches into his pocket and hands Bolin two copper pieces. "Take this and get some dinner from the city." Bolin eyes the money and slumps his shoulders.

"This won't be enough for anything good," he says. Korra notices Mako's eyes flare with anger for a moment. But then he pinches the bridge of his nose and sighs.

"Unless you'd rather spend the rest of our money and not eat for the rest of the week, you'll have to find the best food you can get with that, okay?" Bolin nods solemnly.

"Uh, I should get going," Korra says, feeling like an intruder. She doesn't want them to spend their money on dinner for her, too. "Tenzin is probably worried. See you tomorrow?"

Bolin hugs her quickly, and Mako just grunts at her.

On her way back to Air Temple Island, Korra bites her lip and furrows her eyebrows, thinking of ways she can help her companions. It's not fair she eats like a queen on the island while her best friends barely scrape by.

"Tenzin, can I ask you something?" Korra asks the airbender rather timidly.

"Of course, Korra." He pats the spot on the couch next to him. She obediently sits. "You can ask me anything. You know that, right?" The Avatar takes a deep breath before speaking.

"You know Mako and Bolin, my teammates?" Tenzin nods. "Well, they're more than just my teammates. They were my first friends here. My only friends, actually. Now, they're like my family, and family is supposed to look out for each other, right?" Tenzin places a hand on her shoulder and gazes at her earnestly.

"Korra, what do you need to ask me?" Korra gulps. She knows he'll get mad at her for asking. She knows he'll say no. But she's come too far to walk away.

"Can I take some food and supplies from here every week and give it to them? And before you say no, you have to know that they have nowhere to go and they don't make much money and I care about them and-"

"Listen to me," Tenzin interjects. Thankfully, he doesn't sound angry. "I understand completely, and I think it's wonderful you want to help your friends. You have my permission to take whatever you want." He smiles at her genuinely.

"Oh, thank you so much!" she hugs him, and after a moment's hesitation, he returns the embrace.

"Whoa! Real food!" Bolin is ecstatic. He points to different food asking, "What's that? What's that?" (He isn't familiar with traditional air nomad cuisine.) But before Korra has the chance to answer any of his questions, he's digging in and stuffing his face. The Avatar beams at the fact that she made him so happy. Mako stands alone on the other side of the room. He doesn't look happy.

"Hey," Bolin calls to him. "You have to try this stuff. It's amazing." Most of his words are slurred by all the food in his mouth.

"No thanks, I'm good," he says, turning up his nose. "I wouldn't want that stuff if it were the last food on the planet."

"Mako!" Korra gasps, mouth gaping.

"Yeah, don't be rude. You should accept this nice gift," Bolin says.

"Maybe you can handle it, but I won't go around, thankful that Korra sees us as a charity. So again, no thanks."

"Hey!" Korra retorts. She stands and narrows her eyes at the ungrateful firebender. "I don't see you like that. I never have!"

"Oh, you don't?" Mako is yelling now. "So then why did you bring all this food and money here? Was there a surplus of it at the air temple? If you feel like you have to protect us, then you can forget about it. We do fine on our own. We don't need your donations!" He tries to walk away, but Korra grabs his arm.

"I'm only trying to help you!" she yells back at him. Tears threaten to form at her blind anger she feels toward him. "Sometimes people need help, but obviously you're too suborn to know that. Plus, I didn't think you'd want to worry about something as menial as food when we should be concentrating on winning the championship."

Without waiting for a reaction, Korra stomps up the stairs. She rushes through the maze of hallways until she reaches the balcony Mako showed her a while ago. Since she's seen it, it's always been her favorite part of the arena building.

She sits in the large, open window that faces the air temple and lets the tears fall silently.

What was Mako's problem? He was too proud to let someone, even his friend, pity him. She doesn't want to admit it, but Korra does feel sorry for them. They've been through a tragedy very early in their life. They've struggled but pulled though. It's that fact that makes them seem so strong and accomplished. So what if she wants to help them in a tough time in their lives? It doesn't mean she views them as a charity, as Mako clearly stated.

Her frown deepens when she hears someone enter the room. She hunches her shoulders. She doesn't want anyone to see her cry.

"Go away!" she orders. Whoever it is doesn't listen and lies as hand on her shoulder.

"Korra?" It's Mako. She tries her best to wipe the tears before she turns around. If he's surprised to find her at such a vulnerable moment, he doesn't let on.

"Korra," he repeats, "I, uh, I just…" He scratches the back of his neck, looking for the right words.

"Are you actually apologizing?" Korra asks a little amused.

"Trying. How's it working so far?" The tiniest of smiles forms on his lips.

"You don't say sorry much, do you?" He glances at the ground and shakes his head.

"It's okay," Korra says. "I forgive you. I guess it wasn't very thoughtful of me to barge in and-" She's stopped by his finger on her lips.

"I'm sorry," he says very slowly, as if it was so hard to get the two words out.

"I just want you to know, I don't see you or Bolin as destitute. I just want to help in any way I can. I care about you guys." She looks at him with those big blue eyes.

"I know. Thanks." His smile is wider now, causing Korra to grin as well. She gives him a friendly, if not awkward, hug and pulls him toward the door.

"Come on," she urges. "Some of the air nomad food has weird names, but, trust me, it's good stuff." Their laughter echoes in the halls as they head back for the apartment.