EDIT: JULY 2ND, 2012
I know I've been trying to get part two out to you guys, but it just isn't going to happen. It was brought to my attention that my writing is slightly redundant and that the characters were a tad OOC. Which is completely fine - it's no surprise to me. But given this outside confirmation of what I had already suspected, I'll be cutting this off at part one and leaving it a oneshot.
I've decided that I'm going to do little oneshots for these two characters - practice writing them to get the hang of their personalities and behavior, as well as how they interact with one another. Once my writing has improved enough to satisfy me, I may comback and rewrite this and add the second part.
So, I want to thank each and everyone of you for every review, every favorite and alert that you guys gave me. Your love and enthusiasm over this story was amazing and it touches me that so many people enjoyed reading what I worked so hard on. Many, many thanks again to *Lala-Mot on deviantART for letting me use her work. It was the inspiration for this entire thing.
Now, all I ask is that you don't hate me for this xD
Yeah, I'm a terrible person. I have a million-and-one other things to be updating, but here I am, posting for LoK. But guess what? I REGRET NOTHING.
So, this is a Korra-fic, and there are two possibilities for the endgame romance here. But I won't tell you who it is. Regarding canon, most of this story complies with the events of the show. The only thing different is that Tahno and Korra are friends - even before Korra and the Fabulous Bending Brothers - and Tahno still has his bending. So, it's canon with a dash of AU. Hee.
I would like to thank *Lala-Mot on deviantART for letting me use her piece "Amazing Korra" for this fic. Make sure you look it up while you're reading ;) I'd aslo like to thank Blue-Winter-Angel - a.k.a Elise - for helping me write this and cheering for Tahno from the sidelines. I have successfully brainwashed her to Team Tahno(and Hasook) :D Elise and I also, on a sidenote, havea joint account, x-KarenxMarie-x, where we will be featuring collaborations, hopefully in the near future, so check us out there as well.
Lastly, this is only the first of two parts. I won't give you a time frame, but I hope to have part two up within a few days. So, enjoy and leave many reviews(:
DISCLAIMER: I own nothing but Tahno's sisters, Ilah and Yuki, and the plot. The rest belongs to Bryke.
The atmosphere inside Narook's Seaweed Noodlery was dim and quiet. This late at night not many patrons were out and about; those that were had more interesting things to do than stop by for a bowl of noodles. Korra and Tahno were two exceptions. The old friends were tucked into a private corner, away from the kitchen and front counter, chatting quietly over stewed sea prunes. These late-night get-togethers had become a private routine of theirs. With so many things happening around them in the city – Amon and his Equalists, her airbending block, benders losing their bending – it was nice to be able to have a few hours of peace.
"How's life on the island?" Tahno asked, lounging comfortably on his side of the booth. "I hear the rooms are filling up fast."
Korra chuckled. "Yeah. Since Sato was busted as an Equalist ally, Asami came to the island with Mako and Bolin. It's not too crowded, though."
"I would hate living with that many people." He shivered for dramatic effect. "Glad I've got my own apartment."
"You don't live with the rest of your team?" Despite the probending circuit being shut down indefinitely, Korra knew that many of the teams had still stuck together.
"They're in the same building, just not my particular apartment. We each value our own personal space."
Korra nodded, understanding that completely. "I'm not sure I can remember what personal space feels like, or what it even is."
"I'm sure living on a confined island with almost a hundred people has nothing to do with that, either," Tahno remarked drily.
"Oh, shut up," Korra muttered into her drink. She fell into a thoughtful silence of sorts, only returning to reality when Tahno tugged on one of her side-tails. "Huh?"
"You checked out for a minute or two, Uh-vatar." He eyed her speculatively. "What's the matter?"
Korra sighed. "Nothing new. I guess I didn't realize just how difficult it would be to have Asami and Mako living with me, to see them together every single day."
Tahno nodded. "Easy to forget when the world's crumbling around you and your friends need your help."
"Yeah, Asami's my friend and everything – she needed a new home just as much as Mako and Bolin. And I know if it came down to it, I would invite them all to the island again, but it's still hard." Korra huffed and stirred the leftover prune juice with her chopsticks. "It wouldn't be so bad, maybe, if he'd just make up his stupid mind."
Tahno frowned. "What do you mean?"
"I know Mako likes me, too – he admitted to it during the tournament. But he also really likes Asami, and ever since then I've been getting mixed signals from him left and right; I feel like I'm either drowning or walking on hot coals with him. There's no win-win, and it's getting old."
"Sounds like you need to make up his mind for him, or help him make the decision, at least." Tahno took a long drag from his cup.
"And just how would I do that? I don't exactly have an overabundance of knowledge in this department." Korra's brows furrowed and her bottom lip stuck out in a pout.
"Woo him," Tahno said. "Or seduce him. Both, maybe, if you're feeling confident."
"Yeah, I'm about as seductive as a shirshu," Korra drawled, rolling her eyes.
"I can't exactly agree with that statement, but since we're comparing you to animals I'd have to say you're more like a tigerdillo." Tahno smirked.
Korra eyed him shrewdly. "Har har."
Tahno sobered enough to reply, "My sense of humor is devastating, I know. Being serious, though, you could always make him jealous."
It was like a light bulb coming on in her mind. "Yeah... I could! He was totally jealous when Bolin took me out the night of the tournament. Making him jealous is easy!"
"Good. Now, what's this about a date with Bolin?"
"What, are you jealous?" Korra grinned.
"It's a possibility." Tahno shrugged. "Divulge."
"It was just a trip here to this place. Noodles, drinks, fun times. It meant more to him, romantically, than it did to me. There were some bumps in our friendship for sure, but it's all smoothed out now."
"You think he'd be willing to help you make his brother jealous?"
"I'm sure he'd agree to it, but he's not who I would ask. For one thing, it's kind of an insult toward him on my part." Korra thought for a moment. "Would you be willing to help me make Mako jealous?"
Tahno stared at her, and Korra couldn't tell if he was surprised or insulted or amused. Maybe it was a mixture of all three. Then he grinned a wicked grin. "Sure."
"Really?" Korra could admit that she didn't think he'd go for it.
"Why not? You like Mako, I don't like Mako – making him jealous benefits us both."
"That makes sense." Korra smiled. "So what's our plan?"
"We'll think of something. He's not likely to make up his mind tonight, anyway."
"That is a sad truth." Korra slurped down the rest of her prune juice and sighed. "You wanna head out? It's pretty late."
"I don't want to, but since I have to work in the morning..." They stood and Tahno left a decent tip underneath his bowl. Korra stretched and followed him outside, waving goodnight to Narook on her way out. Outside, she inhaled deeply, enjoying the chill of late winter. It was as close to home as she could get.
Tahno nudged her arm. "Come on, I'll walk you to the water."
"You sure? It's really late to walk back your place alone."
Tahno waved away her concern. "My apartment building is down the street from the harbor. I'll be fine."
They walked in comfortable silence. Being in Tahno's company was one of the few times Korra never felt the need to behave a certain way or make idle conversation. They were each content to simply be with the other; no more, no less. When they reached the harbor, they passed the ferry dock – now closed for the night – and went right up to where the sand met the waters of Yue Bay.
"Goodnight," she said, nudging him in his side. "I'll see you around."
Tahno smirked down at her and nodded. "Goodnight."
Smiling to herself, Korra froze a chunk of water into an ice raft and used her waterbending to propel herself back to Air Temple Island. Tahno stood alone on the beach for a few minutes, watching her glide away until she had almost disappeared completely. He sighed to himself, exhausted and ready to go home.
"See ya around, Uh-vatar."
It was a few days after that night that Tahno found Korra on the island, practicing her airbending forms. He watched her silently for a few minutes, taking in the grace and precision with which she moved, executing the techniques flawlessly. He also noticed the distinct lack of actual airbending. When she stopped to catch her breath, he took the opportunity to make his presence known to her.
She looked up at his drawled greeting and smiled. "Hey, Tahno. What's up?"
"Just thought I'd come see how your training was going." He flicked his bangs out of his eyes. "I'm no expert on airbending by any means, but it looks like you've got the moves down."
"Yeah," Korra sighed, stretching tired muscles. "I could perform these techniques in my sleep. I still can't bend the air, though, and that's what I need to do."
"You'll get there, I'm sure. It's in your blood."
Korra nodded absently. "Uh huh. So what are you really here for?" She knew him well enough by now to know that he didn't come looking for someone out of curiosity. His amused grin told her he knew that she knew this.
"I know how to kick start this little jealousy scheme of yours," he said, cutting right to the chase. Korra's eyes brightened.
"A well-to-do acquaintance of mine is hosting party – some kind of Fire Nation holiday or whatever. He's inviting Councilman Tenzin as an act of good-will, a show of camaraderie within the city's higher-ups. No doubt he'll be wanting the Uh-vatar there, as well." He explained all this with his usual nonchalance, but Korra could see the mischief in his silver eyes.
"This sounds great, but I'm not sure where the make-Mako-jealous part comes in," Korra muttered, waiting for him to continue.
"This party is for the cream of Republic City's crop. It stands to reason that, despite her father's nefarious dealings with the Equalists, the heiress to the Future Industries fortune would also be on the guest list."
"And Mako would be her date." Now it made sense. "So I'm going to be your date for this party?"
Tahno nodded. "If you think you can handle such glamor and prestige."
Korra snorted derisively. "I can handle anything where you're concerned."
Korra thought for a moment. "I only have one dress, though, and it didn't exactly earn me any points the last time I wore it."
"Your attire for that evening will be taken care of," he assured her. "Meet me at Narook's tomorrow afternoon, and I'll take you to get a suitable gown."
"Tahno, you don't have to -" Korra began to protest, but Tahno stopped her.
"I know don't have to. But you deserve to be happy, and even if you can't win the jerk-bender over, you'll have something nice from me." Korra was surprised by the softness of his tone and eyes, both usually razor sharp with wit. It made something in her belly flip, and she pointedly chose to ignore the nuance.
"Well, I – uh, I mean... thanks," she smiled nervously, desperately hoping she wasn't red in the face but immensely relieved that her darker skin would hide most of the color if she was. Tahno granted her his trademark smirk, once again back to his usual self.
"No problem, little girl. Tomorrow at Narook's?" he confirmed, turning to leave. Korra smiled. "Yeah, I'll see you there, pretty boy."
He grinned. "It's a date."
The flips in her belly remained long after he'd gone.
The next afternoon, as Korra was on her way to meet Tahno, Mako stopped her in the courtyard. He seemed relaxed, more at ease than Korra could remember seeing him. He smiled at her, a curious look in his eyes.
"Hey, Korra. Where are you going?"
"Tahno asked me to meet him at Narook's," she replied, trying to keep her voice light. She knew Mako and Bolin – mostly Mako – didn't get along with the other bender. In fact, Mako just about despised him. This was further demonstrated by the way Mako's lips pulled down in a frown.
None of your business. "He wants to take me ...dress shopping. For that party we were invited to." The invitations for Tenzin, Asami, and herself had arrived the previous evening during dinner.
Mako raised any eyebrow. "Tahno wants to take you dress shopping? Since when are you two such good friends?"
"Uh, since we met? Should I remind you that I was friends with Tahno before I was friends with you and Bolin?" She cocked an eyebrow at him; he frowned, knowing she was right and unable to form a decent quip.
Korra, one. Mako, zero. She smirked.
"Don't look so jealous," she teased, opting to try and lighten the mood. It didn't work out very well.
"I'm not jealous." Mako all but snarled the words at her. Deciding that she didn't have time to engage in a verbal sparring match with him, Korra started to ease out of the conversation.
"Okay, you're not jealous." She shrugged and brushed passed him. She had little less than fifteen minutes to get to Narook's, before she was late. "I'll see you guys tonight at dinner. I might even bring Tahno with me, so tell Pema."
Mako stared after her, utterly at a loss. Korra never sidestepped an argument. Ever. In fact, more often than not she was looking for one. So shocked was he, that it wasn't until Korra was well out of hearing distance before he recovered his wits. When he did, he was extremely unhappy. Korra and Tahno? What kind of game was that Wolfbat playing? It certainly wasn't probending.
And you just told her you weren't jealous, mocked his inner voice. He'd been hearing a lot more out of it since coming to the island.
I'm not. I have Asami, I don't need to be jealous, he argued. I'm just concerned.
Even he didn't believe that for a second.
"There you are, Korra," Tahno said, catching sight of Korra as she careened around the corner of the building. "I was beginning to think you'd forgotten our date."
Korra was glad her face was already flushed from running. Just hearing his voice was enough to set off those irritable butterflies in her belly, let alone the way her name rolled off his clever tongue. The way he said 'date', pronouncing the single syllable with excruciating emphasis, gave her pause. Date. Were they on a date? The sharp gleam of amusement in his eyes told her otherwise, but the last few days Tahno had been surrounded by unfamiliar vibe. Korra decided she would analyze this later.
"You're a difficult person to forget," she laughed. "Sorry, I was running late. Literally. Mako stopped to talk to me as I was heading out."
"Ah," Tahno chuckled. "And what did the esteemed captain of the Fire Ferrets have to say?"
"He just asked where I was going. I told him you were taking me dress shopping for the party next week." Korra hoped she had sounded as nonchalant aloud as she had inside her own head. With the sideways look Tahno was giving her, she figured it hadn't worked out.
"He had no qualms with his teammate going out with one of his former competitors?"
"Former, being the operative word," she stared at him pointedly. "But, no, he wasn't happy about it. I was late meeting you, though, so I just kind of evaded the whole conversation and left him standing there."
"What do you mean? I don't think fighting with him when I want to "woo" him is very productive," Korra huffed.
"Fighting isn't, no," Tahno conceded. "But you don't have to fight. You only had to play up the importance of our little outing and he most likely would have been foaming at the mouth."
"Well, I did tell him not to be so jealous." Korra offered this as meager proof of her doubted productivity.
"Then perhaps the conversation wasn't such a waste after all," Tahno mused.
"Yeah, yeah." Korra rolled her eyes. "So where are you taking me?"
"One of my sisters,who still lives in the city, owns a clothing boutique," he explained leading her down the sidewalk. "It would be the highlight of her life to be the Uh-vatar's fashion consultant."
"Really now." Korra pondered this. She hadn't really played up her status as the current Avatar, but if it would help her get Mako in the end, she wouldn't be adverse to changing that.
There wasn't much talk after that and after a while they arrived at what Korra assumed was Tahno's sister's boutique. It was a decently sized building with fresh cream paint and gold lettering on the sign and windows. Inside, Korra could see rack upon rack of luxurious, exorbitantly priced clothing.
Tahno let her gawk for a moment before taking her by the elbow and dragging her inside. "Come on, Uh-vatar, we can't stand outside all day."
The inside of the boutique was warm and smelled of exotic flowers. There were a couple of bored-looking girls behind the far counter, but other than that the shop was empty. One of the girls looked up when they came in and immediately the boredom was replaced by excitement.
"Tahno!" she cried, and at this her co-worker looked up in surprise.
"Ladies," Tahno greeted smoothly, going up to the counter. "How are you two doing?"
"Excellent," the first girl purred, batting false eyelashes at him. Korra wanted to gag. "And you?"
"I'm doing pretty well myself. I need a gown for my companion here." He gestured to Korra, and she noted his use of the word 'companion' instead of 'friend'. She filed that away for later analysis. The check-out girl glared at her with baleful brown eyes. "She another one of your pet projects, babe?"
"Excuse me?" Korra snapped, eyes sparking dangerously. Before she could plant a fireball in the girl's face, though, Tahno intervened.
"No, Ilah, she is not. She's the Avatar, and a personal friend. I'm her escort to Jian's soirée next week and she needs a suitable gown." Korra was delighted by the steel In his voice. "Think you can help her with that?"
The girl bristled. " Actually, I have to take inventory. Yuki can help you."
As Ilah disappeared into a storage room in the back of the store, Yuki offered them an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry about Ilah. She really asks for it sometimes."
"Yeah, she's asking for it alright," Korra muttered.
"Kenna will probably give her the pink slip when she finds out that Ilah snubbed one of Tahno's friends – the Avatar, at that." Yuki chuckled. "It's an honor to meet you, by the way."
"Thanks," Korra smiled. "I have to say it's a pleasure to meet you, after her little stunt."
"Ilah is definitely an acquired taste," Yuki agreed.
"So, where is Kenna?" Tahno asked. "My sister practically lives in this boutique."
"She's been here everyday for the past four weeks, weekends included. I finally forced to take a day or two off," Yuki explained, coming around the counter. "You'll have to settle for me, I'm afraid. How can I help you?"
"Like I said, Korra needs a gown for the party next weekend."
Yuki nodded. "Any preferences?"
"Blue and slinky."
"Slinky?" Korra asked, unfamiliar with the word and not quite sure she liked it.
"You want to make him jealous?" Tahno asked, raising a sculpted eyebrow. Korra nodded. "Then yes – slinky."
"Oh, the jealousy game, huh?" Yuki smiled knowingly. "I have a few selections you might like, then, if that's the case. Wait over by the changing rooms."
While Yuki's tiny frame bustled off into the sea of fine clothing, Tahno led Korra to a spot in the store where there was a handful of dressing stalls with silk curtains for privacy. Mere feet from those were three tall mirrors, positioned so that one could see every inch of oneself and what they were modeling, with a small, circular platform in the center.
"Top-notch place," Korra muttered, flopping down on a cushioned bench. Tahno sat beside her, laughing quietly. "Kenna spared no expense when this store was being constructed."
"I see that." Korra looked around the place for a minute. "You said Kenna was one of your sisters. How many to do you have?"
"Four," he replied, leaning back against the wall. "Niki and Kenna are older; Kahla and Nya are younger. Kenna is the only one of us, apart from our mother, who isn't a waterbender."
"Where are your other siblings?"
"Niki lives in the Upper Ring of Ba Sing Se with her husband, who is an earthbender. Kahla and Nya are training in the North Pole. They all left when the Equalists really started to become a threat. I'm glad they're safe, but I miss them."
"I know the feeling," Korra murmured.
Tahno looked at her curiously. "You have siblings?"
Korra shook her head. "No, just me. But I miss my parents. They're all the way in the South Pole. I write to them every week, but I'm not sure how many of my letters make it through."
"Yeah, it's hard," Tahno agreed, then joked, "At least we have each other."
"There is that." This time, the butterflies were harder to silence.
Yuki came to her rescue, though, her small arms heaped with glittering silky gowns. She hung all of them on a hook inside the nearest stall and turned to Korra. "Alright, Miss Avatar. Let's get started."
"I'm starting to regret coming here," Korra remarked warily as Yuki all but threw her into the stall.
"You'll be fine, Uh-vatar. They're only dresses." Tahno couldn't hold back a smirk as he waited. "You've faced worse, I'm sure."
There was a series of loud gasps and sharp curses as Korra's street clothes were removed and replaced by the first of the gowns. She felt like she couldn't breath, but she might have just been overreacting. When Yuki led her out to the platform, Korra felt utterly foolish. The dress was blue, yes, but the word 'slinky' didn't come to mind. Ridiculous was at the top of the list, though. It was strapless, and clung so tight to her curves that there wasn't anything left for the imagination to do. She looked at Tahno, who was currently appraising her with a critical eye.
"I don't like this dress," she informed him, looking for all the world like a petulant little girl.
"I don't, either." Tahno frowned. "It's not right. It looks good, sure, but it isn't enough. The only thing the dress will do is make you an appealing choice for some sleaze-bag who wants to get lucky."
"Like you?" Korra quipped, laughing silently at him.
"Korra, please," he drawled. "I don't 'get lucky'. I'm the one people wish to get lucky with."
"Yeah, whatever. I'm taking this off."
"In the middle of the store? Brash, even for you."
"Oh, shut it. You know what I meant," she snapped, disappearing into the stall, where Yuki could be heard giggling. Several frustrated mutters later and she reemerged in a gown less flattering than the one before. It was a dark, dull blue with a high, halter-top neck line. Completely unsuitable. Tahno stood and circled her like a hawk.
"This will not do at all," he said to Yuki, who was waiting off to the side. "Korra is a bright star, a celebrity of sorts to the people. She is unlike anything Republic City has seen or ever will see again. Her very presence commands attention from even the most worthless creatures and what she wears must reinforce this idea – it must be as bright and commanding as our Avatar."
Yuki thought for a moment. Then she smiled. "I have exactly what you need."
She hauled Korra back into the stall and proceeded to strip her down to nothing but the cloth wraps that covered her bum. She then collected all the of the obnoxious gowns and whisked them back out to be put away and replaced by whatever marvelous creation would surpass it. And while she did all this, Korra's mind was stuck on Tahno's last words, replaying them in her head.
As quietly as she could manage, Korra pulled aside the curtain so that she could peek through the sliver of space at him. He had one leg pulled up, his ankle resting over his knee, and his head tilted to the side. He was staring at the platform where she had just stood, brows pulled down in quiet thoughtfulness. She noted the way his sleek black hair fell into his silver eyes, and how the electric lighting of the boutique cast harsh shadows on his angular face.
He's handsome, she realized, startled. How had she never noticed that? She knew that dozens, perhaps hundreds, of women were attracted to him, but she attributed to that to his status as the leader of a title-defending probending team. It had never occurred to her that maybe a few of those women went after him simply because his looks alone were so devastating. Did he mean something else by what he said, or was he just trying to make a point?
If she'd been housing butterflies before, now there was stampeding herd of sky bison in her belly. Many of the things she'd decided to stow away until later suddenly rushed back up. He agreed so easily to help her with Mako. He sought her out to tell her about the party, asked her – in his own indirect way – to be his date. He referred to her as his personal friend, his companion. He was about to purchase an outlandishly priced gown - and probably accessories or something else just as frivolous, knowing him – just to help her be happy. And then there he was, ranting calmly about how bright and unique she was.
She didn't know how she felt about all this, especially with the conclusion she was coming to. She did know that her plans for wooing Mako to her side were beginning to blur around the edges, looking more and more like a childish scheme that would only make everyone unhappy in the end. She did know that right now, looking at Tahno, there was something beyond their usual banter and flirting – a strange warmth that was spreading everywhere inside of her. A desire to learn more about him, to make him laugh his raspy laugh, to watch him bend the water to his will like the master he was. She knew that something was going to change between them. She knew that it would drastically affect her life as she now knew it. She did not know what that something was.
"Hey, Tahno?" she asked, painfully aware of how meek she sounded. She cleared her throat harshly.
"Yes, Uh-vatar?" he drawled. Instead of his usual tone putting her at ease, it sent her heart racing within her chest.
"Did you..." her voice faltered, by she pressed on. "Did you -"
"Here it is!" Yuki swept back into the scene, cutting Korra off completely. In her arms was something covered in a long, black cloth sheath. "If this isn't what you're looking for, Tahno, you'll never find it."
"Hn," Tahno eyed the bag indifferently. "We'll see."
Yuki stepped into the stall and hung the dress on the hook. When she removed the black cloth, Korra couldn't help the gasp that escaped her lips. It was gorgeous. Utterly, totally exquisite. Korra had never seen anything so lovely in her life. The gown was made of fine silk that rippled like water over her skin, the shades of blue melting into one another; forget-me-not to cerulean to turquoise. The sleeves were long and the back was nearly nonexistent, for all the coverage it provided. Everything from her shoulder blades to the small of her back was exposed. And it sparkled. Every square millimeter of the dress glittered like billions of stars, and it all contrasted beautifully with her caramel skin.
"I...like this," she breathed, glancing down at herself.
Yuki smiled. "Wait til you see yourself in the mirror. Hmm...One last thing." Yuki reached up and swiftly tugged the ties from her hair, freeing the chocolate strands to spill down her shoulders. After another moment of speculation, Yuki used the ties to hold her hair up into some kind of mess on the side of her head. "I know it probably feels like a hot mess to you, but trust me. You're a total knock-out."
"I'll take your word for it," Korra muttered, allowing Yuki to lead her back out to the platform. When she took that first glance at herself, though, she understood. Yes, her hairstyle was a bit messy, but it was twisted attractively behind her ear with several loose strands framing her face. The slender column of her neck was left bare, wonderfully accentuated.
"You know," Yuki said. "I actually have a pair of earrings that would look great with this. Wait right here." And she was off again.
Bored with staring at herself, Korra turned around to face Tahno, who had remained unexpectedly silent. Cue stampeding sky bison.
His keen silver eyes were raking over her form, taking in every inch of her. She waited a minute for him to speak, to say anything; point out some minute flaw, say that it wasn't the right cut or color, give a slightly melodramatic speech about her characteristics. She received absolutely nothing. Finally, when she could no longer bare the silence, she spoke.
"So, is this good enough? I mean, how do I look, O God of All that is Fashionable?"
Tahno shifted in his seat. When he replied, he ignored her jibe completely. "You look radiant."
There was a strange undertone to his voice, but Korra couldn't even begin to decipher it for the way he was looking at her. His quicksilver eyes were locked on hers, unnaturally bright in the store. Her heart was rapping out an uneven rhythm and her breaths were coming short and the last time she felt this way her heart had crumbled into dust. She felt a crippling fear that turned her blood to ice then, but knew she was being completely irrational. Tahno was a man, and she was a woman. A woman in a fantastic dress that made her look equally fantastic.
Of course he's staring, Korra told herself, snapping out of her terrified trance. He's a ladies' man, and your entire back is showing. Quit being stupid.
Whatever thoughts she had entertained of Tahno that went beyond their unusual friendship were turned to ice and then brutally crushed to shards by earth. She didn't have time to let her mind run all over the place. She liked Mako, she wanted Mako. Mako was what mattered; he was all she would ever need. He would make her happy, and they would spend the rest of their days together, once he left Asami behind. She felt more than a twinge of guilt at that – Asami had never truly wronged her, but the other girl stood in the way of Korra's happiness.
Korra was saved from further – and even more selfish – speculation by Yuki's return. The tiny woman breezed right up onto the platform and held out a pair of round earrings, each carved with the bending symbol for water. They were a bronze color that didn't really match her gown, but Korra liked them anyway and fastened them to her ears. Yuki beamed at her and looked at Tahno.
"What did I tell you?" she asked. "She's gorgeous!"
Tahno nodded and smiled. "She was always gorgeous. Now she is breathtaking, and that is exactly what we need."
Not for the first time, Korra was grateful for her darker complexion. She knew she had to be blushing, and something about Tahno's smile had her going weak in the knees. She carefully smoothed the front of her gown, her palms coming away dusted with glitter.
"So, is that everything?" Yuki asked, looking back and forth between them.
Tahno was the one to answer. "Yes, thank you."
Yuki nodded and lead Korra back into the stall where she was stripped of the lovely gown and put back into her own clothes. While Tahno paid for the merchandise – which at the last minute included a pair of strappy shoes – Korra retied her hair into its usual three ponytails. When everything had been rung up and put into bags, Yuki smiled one last time.
"It was so nice to meet you, Korra," she said. "I hope everything works out for you."
Korra smiled softly. "So do I."
They thanked Yuki again – Korra was glad that Ilah seemed to have gotten lost in the inventory – and finally left the store. Korra noted the drastically lower position of the sun and was surprised. They had been in the store for nearly four hours.
"What were you going to ask me?" Tahno said, breaking the silence as they walked back to the harbor.
Korra blinked up at him. "What?"
"Before Yuki brought your gown you were trying to ask me something. What was it?"
"Oh." Korra racked her brain for something to say. No way was she going to tell him what had been on her mind – She needed to focus on Mako. Mako, Mako, Mako. Mako. Then she remembered her conversation with the firebender before coming into town.
I'll see you guys tonight at dinner. I might even bring Tahno with me, so let Pema know.
"I was going to ask if you wanted to come to the island for dinner tonight," she blurted, hoping he would believe it. It was true, but Korra figured she sounded like she was avoiding the real issue. The surprise and suspicion on Tahno's face confirmed this.
He stared at her speculatively, but slowly nodded. "Alright, Uh-vatar. Sounds nice."
Relieved that she had so easily gotten off the hook, she quickly changed the subject. "Great. So, you really think this whole plan will work? Will this dress be enough to win him over?"
Tahno shook his head. "Of course not." At her crestfallen look, he added, "The dress will show him part of what he's missing out on. It's up to you to win him over. Show him how wonderful and one-of-a-kind you are. Show him that you want him, out of all others, despite his unworthiness."
Not necessarily all others, she corrected him silently, before refocusing on the matter at hand. Really, her prospects didn't sound very good. Her personality was supposed to win Mako over? They couldn't go five minutes without fighting! She was doomed, that was for sure, but she still spat out some bravado. "Doesn't sound too difficult. He'll be mine by the end of the night."
Tahno chuckled. "That Fire Ferret won't know what hit him."
So, how was that for the first half? I'll tell you, I'm really nervous about letting you guys read this because I feel like at certain parts I deviated and rambled and it was just a mess. Hopefully that isn't the case, and it's wonderful and you all loved it.
But just so I know for sure - review, review, review. I'll love you forever.