You can tell me when it's over if the high was worth the pain.
Progress on New Republic City was slow and painful. The buildings in the old city were left to crumble in peace, the area left as a new and exclusive spirit wild around third spirit portal. Citizens had gone back for anything that was left in the structures that were safe to enter. The new city was on the other side of the bay and was taking shape as fast as contractors could work. When one apartment building was being finished, another foundation was being poured. People needed homes and companies needed to be reestablished, not to mention public service structures such as the NRC Police Station. Before that building was finished, Mako had been working out of random buildings, sometimes he didn't even have a desk or a chair.
Eventually, three months after the spirit portal's birth, a proper New Republic City Police Station was built and finished. Nothing extravagant but it did its purpose. Mako and Lin worked hand in hand, the most important detective back on the force as Wu settled into his new found talented lifestyle. Bolin and Varrick worked more closely together on movers, producing an epic saga about everyone's favorite Avatar. President Raiko mad a new park featuring another larger than life statue of Korra, naming the park after her again. Asami and Raiko worked together to rebuild the business district. Jinora and Kai stayed in the city together and worked locally, like Opal. Most of the Beifong's moved back to Zaofu, aside from the time Huan stayed and helped build sculptures and statues to heroes ad tributes to their strength and importance. And Korra was in the Earth Empire, meeting with each governor and mayor of the appropriate territory and helping to calm things in the world. Everything seemed to be falling in place. So why was something missing for Mako?
It was a few weeks after the new city settled down and Mako had had a long day. Someone was dumb enough to graffiti the new buildings, leaving a very interesting and explicit tag. It didn't take him but two hours to track him down. The perpetrator's excuse had been that the triple threats were disbanded and he wanted to start his own gang, leaving little threads all over town. It was a pathetic effort to say the least, considering the triple treats triads were as big as ever. Mako threw the scruffy teen back into his holding cell after his interrogation and sighed as he clocked out, deciding a night in jail would do the kid and the streets some good.
Mako put on his coat and slicked his hair back as he walked into the cold snowy night. It fell softly and that odd pregnant silence that encompassed the snow pierced his ears and made him uncomfortable. He walked down the street and grabbed a newspaper from a stand about to close, telling them to keep the change. He tucked the paper into his coat and his gait quickened. The sun was already down and the city around him was an orange haze, the lights reflecting off the snow and the clouds.
His walk to his apartment wasn't really that long of a walk in his terms. Only about two miles. For him it was nothing. When he reached the stairwell he ran his fingers through his hair to get the snow off, his hair spiking up like it had when he was younger. He slicked it back again and unlocked his door. He kicked off his boots and hung his coat, slapping the paper on the counter and getting some leftover dumplings from the ice box. After a few bites he hummed and flipped the paper open, sitting on a stool at the edge of the kitchen. Reading the paper was one of those few things he enjoyed to do, but even that was detective work in his mind. Who wrote the story? Was their source accurate? Was the information prudent to his life and or to the people of the city? He always picked apart the articles like that, but it was how his mind could transition from work mode to home mode… which was really just variant degrees of interest.
He actually enjoyed the tabloids. It gave him something to smile about; how incredibly horrible the articles and the accusations they could make were with little to no proof. He flipped right to them tonight, needing a good laugh. In that night's paper was a whopper of a story; one that any slime ball journalist could sniff out a mile away. The headline read Avatar Korra's New Lover Revealed! Mako smirked to himself because he knew it would all be lies. He flipped the page and saw a picture that made his brain stop working. There was Korra, standing outside the Sato mansion, kissing Asami. And not just a peck on the cheek. This was a passionate lover's kiss. He couldn't take his eyes off the photo. He put down his dumpling and let the paper fall from his fingers, trying to make sense of it. He spaced out, his mind completely blank. The more he tried to wrap his head around the situation the more it didn't make sense to him. Until it finally clicked. The wedding. He saw them go off together. That must have been the start of this whole thing. He chuckled softly and pushed the paper away from himself.
"Figures." He said to himself and popped the last bit of dumpling into his mouth. He washed it down with some water and wiped the back of his mouth, heading straight for the shower. It was hot and fast. He was dry in no time and flopped onto his bed naked. He looked to the clock. It was only nine. Early to bed early to rise. Too bad he never got enough sleep. He sighed and closed his eyes, trying to drown out everything, feeling like he was surrounded by a cloud of noise when in actuality his apartment was dead silent. The day had just been too long and too taxing to try and make sense of his cases, let alone his friendships.
Mako dug through his closet and, as such a snazzy dresser, he couldn't pick from the three formal attire outfits he had. And with Bolin in his own place he had no one to ask. He had the classic set Asami had given him when they were dating years ago. He had the stupid bodyguard outfit from when he worked for Wu. And then there was the newest one; a black and white number with red and gold accents. He had yet to actually wear it anywhere because he bought it out of Bolin and Opal's insistence when he was out with the lovely couple shopping. He stood with all three outfits on the bed and the more he thought about it the more he liked the idea of showing up in something new.
As he put the other two away he idly wondered if Korra would like it and tried to shake the thought. This was an engagement party. The engagement of Korra and Asami. He shouldn't be trying to impress her, it would be a wasted effort. And even if it worked it was wrong to do that. He was invited and should be gracious about this. But as happy as he wanted to be for his friends, this whole party was salt in the wounds. He had been trying to convince himself over that last few months that as long and Korra was happy, he should be happy. He had tried to calm the part of his heart that still yearned for her, but to no avail. This party might kill him, but he needed to die with a smile. For her.
The party was reminiscent of the gala Tarrlok threw for Korra when she first came to old Republic City, only the new city hall was much larger and there were so many more people. Mako was on guard, ready for someone to make trouble. When you're a cop, you're never really off duty.
Bolin, Opal, Jinora, and Kai were all talking with him in a group. It was nice to see the younger couple again. Jinora's yellow dress was simple yet beautiful and Kai cleaned up pretty well in his formal red and orange robes. Of course, anything looked better than the flying squirrel suits in his opinion. Jinora made a comment to Bolin as to when he would propose to Opal and for once Bolin had nothing to say. He tried to stammer his way out of the situation to Mako's entertainment and Opal cut him off, offering the idea back at Kai. Kai blushed and Jinora got defensive about their young age and Mako had to hold back a smile, sipping on some punch. This was honestly a great way to keep his mind off the issue, watching his friends try to destroy each other kindly.
"What about you Mako?" Kai asked hurriedly.
"Hmm? What about me?" He asked and pulled his glass away from his lips.
"Don't you have a lady friend in your life you would like to tell us about?"
"Oh." He groaned internally and his stomach dropped. Suddenly this wasn't fun anymore. "No, I'm pretty content being on my own." He lied.
"What about the healers that helped you with your arm? They seemed pretty into you, they even paid you home visits didn't they?" Opal asked and smirked.
He thought for a moment and narrowed his eyes. He hadn't noticed them taking special interest in him. Maybe he was too blind to see it.
"No," He slowly responded. "Shui was sweet but I don't really think I liked her any more than a patient can like their healer."
"What about Kenai? You two would be so cute together!" Jinora piped up.
Mako rubbed the back of his neck.
"He was good looking but I really don't think him and I have the same interests when it comes to, uh, romance." He looked down and hoped someone would change the subject. Bolin clapped a hand on his shoulder and smiled.
"Don't worry bro, I've got a line of wonderful ladies that I work with. I can introduce you!"
"I told you, I'm fine alone!" He said defensively and shrugged off his hand. Bolin frowned and was about to say he was just trying to help but Mako's gaze was already averted to someone outside of the circle.
The two couples followed his line of sight and saw Korra at the top of the staircase looking right at him. His heart stopped beating. Her short hair was in a bun and her dress was probably the classiest thing he had ever seen her in. It was sky blue, form fitting, and knee length with white fur on the trim and a thick brown leather belt around her waist. She wore the same pendant she had at Zhu Li and Varrick's wedding, the same arm bands, white feather earrings, and something Mako had never seen her wear; make up. She smiled and looked at everyone else as their attention was slow to turn from the company. Before Asami came to her side Mako saw the engagement necklace on her throat and it made him a little queasy to know that it could have been his.
Korra turned her head and Asami came out from the other side and wrapped her arm around Korra's, walking down the steps to the party. People noted them and started clapping, making the girls smile and look to each other. The happiness in their eyes couldn't be mistaken and it was stabbing Mako in the heart. He made his face pensive rather than painful, unable to put on a happy façade and going for what he could do.
He put down his glass and clapped for them both as they came to the bottom of the stairs, people snapping pictures and coming up to them to give them congratulation speeches. His group started making remarks about the couple's outfits, their hair, how happy they looked, how long the engagement was going to last before the actual wedding, things that most people talk about at these parties. Mako was silent. He had seen Korra and she saw him. He wondered if that counted enough for him to be able to excuse himself now. Unfortunately it was not an option. He knew better.
Just as these thoughts passed through his mind, the couple of the hour came up to the circle. They opened up for them and both girls smiled and Korra laughed, happy to see her closest friends there. The group talking became very intense, splitting Korra and Asami's attention into two separate conversations. Mako, however, stayed quiet.
Eventually, Kai and Jinora hugged and said their last congratulations before leaving. Bolin and Opal took up the slack and occupied their attention for another few minutes, Korra and Asami stealing glances at Mako every now and then. Soon their steam ran out and Opal and Bolin excused themselves, leaving the two girls with Mako. They all looked to each other and looked away leaving tense moments of silence between them. Asami smiled and looked back to Mako.
"I know this is hard." She offered.
"No, it's fine! I'm really happy for you two." He said and actually smiled, though nervously. Korra stepped forward and put a hand on his shoulder.
"It really means a lot to us that you are here. And that you stayed." Korra said with a sincere smile. Mako nodded, not really sure what to say. Korra dropped her hand and they stood in silence for a few more moments.
"So, um, when's the date?" He asked and looked back up to them. Korra shrugged
"We're not in a hurry and we aren't really sure where we are going to have it. That's kind of the whole point of this party. It's like our pre reception."
"Korra's about to ship off to the fire nation for a few months and we didn't think a sudden wedding was a very good idea, so here we are." Asami and held Korra's hand. Korra smiled and squeezed her fiancée's hand.
"And she can't really come with me. She's CEO of a huge growing company. She's got too much work to do. Although, I've told you how much you need a vacation."
"Korra, we've been over this. I can't just leave for an untold amount of time. Your trips always last more than you predict. I can't do that to my employees."
"I know." Korra sighed and looked around. "Oh look, Meelo and Ikki are so cute all dressed up!"
"Let's go say hi." Asami said and looked back to Mako. "We are so happy you came. Thank you so much."
"Sure." He said and smiled again. Korra met his eyes as Asami pulled her off, her gaze lingering and her head turning back as she walked away. It was hard for either of them to break eye contact and for Mako that was a punch in the gut. Korra smiled to him again but it was a different smile. It had some shade of sadness he couldn't put his finger on, at least that's what he thought. She finally looked ahead of herself and broke the grip she had on him. He sighed and looked down. He thought to himself that he was probably over thinking things. When Korra's spell on him was broken and picked his glass back up and knocked back the rest of his punch, using the opportunity to take his leave.
Another day another dollar and Mako was glad the day was over. Training someone was never easy but this rookie was particularly nervous. Mako slipped on his coat and adjusted his collar. The newbie rushed passed him and Mako grabbed his coat.
"Whoa, where's the fire Botan?" Mako said with a smirk. He turned to Mako and rubbed the back of his neck.
"Oh, sorry sir, I just really need to get home."
"Oh? Got a wife and three kids that need your care?" He said and chuckled.
"Sir, I'm eighteen."
"That didn't stop me."
Botan was quiet and a blush came across his tan skin. Mako laughed and patted his shoulder.
"I'm joking. Lighten up." Mako said and grabbed his hat. "Listen, it's Friday. It's been a long week. Let me buy you a drink."
"Are you sure sir?"
"Yeah. And hey, we're off the clock. You don't have to be so formal."
Botan nodded and wrapped his scarf around his neck as they walked out into the cold winter air. They walked to a bar that wasn't far from the station. It wasn't a club but it wasn't a hole in the wall either. When they entered the familiar smell of cigar smoke and bad bar food hit them and was oddly more pleasant then the slushy streets of New Republic City. Mako took off his hat and walked up to the bar, setting it down and sitting on a stool. Botan sat with him and took his scarf off and unbuttoned his coat. They both shrugged out of their coats and the bartender came up to them.
"Hey Mako, who's your boyfriend?"
"Good one Hong. Maybe I won't tip tonight." He smiled and rested his arms on the bar as Hong laughed, Botan seeming even more nervous. "This is the new jack I was telling you about."
"Oh. Yeah, okay I can see what you mean." Hong laughed again. "So, the usual?"
"Double whiskey, neat. Botan?" He turned to him.
"Hm? Oh, junshu, hot."
"Coming right up." Hong said and walked away.
"Hot junshu. Good choice. I haven't had that in a long time." Mako said and looked to him.
"It's what me and my dad used to drink."
"Oh yeah, you're dad's from the Fire Nation. I guess in the end, all of us here are mutts huh?" He smiled and Botan nodded. "You look like your mother though. Even the same hairstyle." He joked and Botan laughed, touching his dreadlocks pulled back into a wolf tail.
"Mako. You're such a different person when you aren't working."
"I have to be. I tried being the best detective at all times and it was ruining my life. I still have my sense of duty at all times, but you have to learn to leave your work at work, and your home life at home. Take that to heart instead of being so offended about what the accused say to you."
Botan sighed and their drinks arrived. He took his little cup and kicked it back, licking his lips and tapping the cup on the bar for a second one. Hong was quick to comply.
"How do you do it? Really? I mean, the academy was great but the real job is so… thankless."
Mako chuckled darkly and took a sip of his drink.
"If you are looking for a thank you at the end of the day, you might want to be a healer."
Botan wrinkled his nose and frowned. Apparently that was a sore spot. Mako sighed and put down his drink.
"Look. This job isn't for everyone. And you don't have to prove anything to anyone. You can be anything you want to be and I'm not just saying that. I know your dad really wants you to be a cop but you have to do what makes you happy."
"What makes you happy?"
Mako opened up his mouth to answer but he was lost for words. He really didn't know what made him happy. Most things in his life just made him content or at least not depressed. He took another sip and let the whiskey dance on his pallet, mulling over the flavor and the question simultaneously.
"Sorry, was that too personal?" Botan asked.
Mako swallowed and shook his head.
"No, I just never really thought about it. I guess I like reading mystery novels."
"What?" Mako asked.
"What happened to 'leave your work at work'? That's detective work too!"
Mako laughed and his smile was wide.
"I guess it is. But I love my job. That's the difference between you and I."
Botan huffed and looked as the bartender refilled his cup with steaming junshu.
"That's not the only difference."
"Hey, fuck the guys at the department. You can't help who you love. Trust me, I know."
"Oh really? You know about love? Mister Mako, who could have any gal he wanted and probably any guy if you asked the right way?"
Mako spit out his whiskey into his cup and laughed again, closing his eyes. When he stopped laughing, the objective of the question hit him full on. He nodded and hummed.
"Yes, I know about being helplessly in love. Her name is Korra and she's engaged."
Botan raised an eyebrow.
"Korra? As in Avatar Korra?"
"Ouch. That's rough buddy."
"Tell me about it."
They fell silent and Mako finished his drink. He left money on the counter and put his winter attire back on. Botan did the same and Mako patted him on the shoulder.
"I am sure Anyu is a great guy and I hope your father comes around soon. And if he doesn't, well… You've always got your mother's love. Besides, if you love him, that's all that matters."
Mako gave him another pat and started to walk out of the bar.
"See you Monday. Take a taxi." He called over his shoulder.
He walked through the snow and grabbed a newspaper, falling into his old routine. He tucked the paper in his coat and was home in no time, taking off his snow soaked clothes and hat and tossing the paper on the counter. He walked to his bedroom while loosening his tie, taking his time unbuttoning his shirt and undoing his belt. He put his clothes in the hamper, his belt, wallet, badge, and tie clip on his dresser, and left to take a shower. He took his time, the buzz from the whiskey slowing his mind. It was also numbing the pain.
He had thought about her every day, but saying her name hurt. It was like Korra was the combination to the lock that held back all of his emotions connected with her. He rested his forehead against the heated tiles as the hot water streamed down his back. It had been almost a year since he saw her last. He wondered if her hair was longer. Or if she wore make up a lot now. Or if she was happy. Or if she thought of him. And that was a good place to stop, he thought. If he went much further he would just end up in more pain. He took in a deep breath and mentally tried to pull his chest back together and lock it back up. It took a while but when the water ran cold, he was finally able to breathe again.
He got out of the shower and dried off, throwing on a pair of clean boxers. His stomach growled and he agreed, it was time for food.
Mako went to the kitchen and made some of his signature spicy noodles, keeping his mind and his hands busy. It was what he did best; keeping busy. He leaned against the counter and slurped the noodles. He was obviously hungrier than he thought, his food gone in no time. He left the dishes in the sink and grabbed the paper, walking to the couch and turning on the radio. With the music in the background he flipped the paper open and started to skim the headlines. Criminals captured. New park opened. New laws passed. Probending scores.
"Well, there goes fifty yuans." He said and smirked as his favorite team lost again. He continued through the paper. Weather, classifieds, obituaries, opinion column. And then his favorite. The tabloids. It was an election year so there was all kinds of bolded slander from each candidate's campaign manager. He smiled a bit at some of the ridiculous, though maybe truthful, stories. He turned the page and he was out of the tabloids and almost done with the paper. A headline in the back caught his attention.
Trouble in Paradise
He couldn't resist. He read the story and was shocked at what he read. He read the quote taken from her over and over again and it just didn't seem real. But there it was in black and white.
"It looks like all the scandalous rumors from the grape vine are true! We caught Avatar Korra off guard at a recent press conference in Zaofu. 'Sometimes your situation changes and sometimes it's good and sometimes it's bad,' Avatar Korra commented. 'Either way, our parting of ways is mutual and the wedding is off. It was our decision and it will not be reflected in my current work with the Earth Empire.' Avatar Korra has not been spotted with Ms Sato in a few weeks. When confronted at her public quarterly financial report, Ms Sato said 'I mirror what Korra has said on the subject. No further comment.' The most powerful couple in the world is now just two powerful women doing their jobs and living their lives. We have heard from multiple sources that Avatar Korra has a string of lovers that led to the decision. When asked about this Avatar Korra declined to comment."
Mako felt like he was holding something back. He was so conflicted on how to feel he wasn't letting himself feel anything. He should be sad that his friends had differences that they couldn't work out. He should not be happy that Korra was single. He should not be thinking about how to find her and confess that when he said he would always love her, he meant it. He just needed to separate himself from the situation. It meant nothing for him other than the fact that his two friends were now in some kind of pain and he needed to be graceful and compassionate about it. It was too much to feel all at once so he shut himself down, going numb.
He closed the paper, and set it on the coffee table, deciding that he would ride out the rest of his buzz and let it lull him to sleep.
Over the years, Korra had come and gone from New Republic City numerous times. Be it for business or pleasure, she always was announced by the paper. Bolin and Opal had always tried to bribe Mako out of his apartment to spend some time together as a group. The whole team avatar back together again, plus their daughter Pearl of course. Most of the time his work interfered with these plans. But one time he lied and said he was too busy. For some reason he would rather watch Korra's life from afar than be a part of it.
He sighed and hung up the phone back onto the receiver. Bolin had been rather insistent, even letting Pearl try. But as much as he loved his niece, Mako was very firm in his decision to stay away from Korra if he could.
He drummed his fingers on the counter and looked over to the deserted corner of his living room where old papers were stacked. Every single paper had a snapshot of Korra's life. Where she was going, who she was meeting with and, most painfully, who she was dating or stringing along. As time went on it seemed like she had new companions quicker, each relationship was shorter than the last, sometimes only lasting a night. Of course she was hounded by the paparazzi. She was questioned over and over again about her personal life and she always declined to comment. It drove Mako crazy. He wondered why she was doing this to herself. She deserved love. One love. One person to love her and take her for who she is, good and bad. Was she really not concerned with how this was going to affect her self esteem?
He thought to himself that he really should stop caring about her life and try focusing on his own. All he did was work, read mystery novels, and track her life. What kind of life was that? Didn't he deserve happiness too? While Korra was going from one person to the next Mako was eternally single AKA married to his job. He shook his head and resolved within himself that he deserved better than chasing her. He went over to the corner and threw every scrap of her life from that last four years away. It was taunting to see them sitting in the trash. He closed his eyes and punched towards the can with his fist, setting the papers on fire. It was painful but cleansing. He needed to let go. He needed to understand that even if he did love her all this time, he would probably never get it reciprocated again. Not on the level he wanted.
It was a hot summer night and Mako was dying in the heat. He had let himself become accustomed to a nice lifestyle after being appointed Deputy Chief of Police and it was coming back to bite him in the ass and reminding him of his roots. Although, thinking back on it, he never remembered a summer quite this hot when he was a kid. Rolling blackouts had effected the city in certain parts, even in his new flat that was modern but cozy, just nice enough to where he wasn't ashamed to have people over.
With the power out he slept for the past few nights with his windows open, laying in top of his bed in his boxers and his watch. He checked the time at it was passed midnight, about two in the morning. He couldn't sleep. The streets outside his window were noisy and that was normal. That wasn't the issue. His apartment itself was too quiet without power. He needed the street noise and the noise of his fan to be able to sleep peacefully. He sighed and scratched his goatee. Mako wondered if he should just get up for the day and go down to the station, having keys and lots of work to do as usual.
While he lay in debate, a soft knock came at his front door. He checked his watch again and yes, it was still two in the morning. He wondered who on earth would disturb him this early, late, whatever it was, it was a very inconvenient hour for visitors. He grumbled and got off the bed, walking to the door and running his fingers through his hair. He opened the chained door and looked through the crack.
"What?" He groaned and looked out into the hallway, seeing no one. He blinked and shifted his eyes down, seeing a red box on his doormat. He was skeptical but closed the door, unchaining it and opening it wide. He stepped out into the hall and peered both ways, no one in sight. Mako bent over and got the box and closed the door, locking it behind him. He was cautious of the box, feeling the weight and trying to decide if it was a threat or not.
Eventually his curiosity won him over, taking the top off and raising an eyebrow when he saw what was inside. There, in white padding was a amber-gold watch with a red face and complimenting gold numbers and hands. It looked expensive. At least two weeks worth of his wages and that was saying something. He took off his simple black leather watch and replaced it with the new one. It had a nice weight to it and it fit him perfectly. He actually smiled and turned his hand around, trying to see it from every angle. A taupe card caught his eye. It was stuck to the inside of the box. He peeled it off and opened it up, finding just a few words.
Happy Birthday Officer
Though the words were innocent enough, he knew that handwriting. He hadn't seen it in over five years but there was no mistake. His heart raced as he realized he had just been seconds away from actually seeing Korra again.
Mako's birthday was supposed to be on the down low. But someone, probably Botan, squealed. He had arrived at work that day to find confetti littering his office and almost everyone in the department brought some kind of food or cake to share. He was trying to be nice to everyone but turning twenty-eight was not really that big of a deal. He had never made a big deal about birthdays since when he was little his brother and himself never had any way to celebrate.
With the department devouring as much food as they could, very little work actually got done that day. At one point he barricaded himself in his office to try and get the pile of paperwork on his desk done after spending half an hour cleaning the confetti. He scribbled and filed until his wrists hurt, feeling his back suffer from his poor posture. The last file was finally signed and put away and he sighed with relief. He looked to his watch and was happy at the time, only a few minutes after eight. He had expected to be there all night. Mako smiled and silently patted himself on the back for using that laser focusing ability he had. He stood to stretch and a knock came at his door. He leaned over and unlocked it, telling the person to come in. Mako looked up and his smile faded.
"Oh, hey Chief."
"Hey kid." Lin looked around his office and smirked. "Nice work. I didn't think we'd ever get all of that work done today."
"Yeah well, the Black Dragons really aren't that much trouble. It's pretty easy to file their paperwork when you have all of their names and locations memorized."
Lin chuckled and looked around his fairly bare office, a few pictures of Mako and his brother up, and a family photo of Bolin, Opal, and their beautiful daughter Pearl. She looked to his watch.
"That's not the type of thing you normally wear. Birthday present from someone special?"
"Hmm?" He questioned and looked at the watch she was pointing to. "Oh, um… Well…" He really didn't know how to answer. Korra was certainly special in every sense of the word, but her question implicated a current lover. Through his stuttering she waved her hand.
"Don't worry about it. Not my business. However, I want you to take tomorrow off."
"Really? Why?" Mako raised his eyebrow.
"Because you've accrued almost a month's worth of vacation time and trying to get you to take it is like trying to give a bearded cat a bath. So just take tomorrow off and make it a long weekend. You and I are really the only ones holding this place together anymore, but I think we can survive one day without you. You deserve it. Have a good time." She said and turned to leave, tapping on the doorframe. "Just don't make the papers."
"You got it Chief." He smiled and watched her leave. Lin had been such a different person since the feud between her family was settled, but there were parts that were still the same old Lin. Like her ease of command that still made Mako feel like he was nineteen. He turned off the lights in his office, made sure he had his keys and everything else and left without so much as a slice of cake. He passed Botan and flicked him in the head, earning a laugh and a wave goodbye.
Outside the sunset was a faded orange that blended into the navy blue of the impending night sky, a few twinkling stars poking out through the light pollution of the city, as well as a couple bright planets. Mako walked to his NRCPD motorcycle and strapped on his helmet, digging his driving gloves out of his back pocket. He started it up, kicked it into neutral, backed into slow moving traffic and took off into the opposite direction towards his place.
Mako zipped in and out of traffic, legally of course, and drove his bike into the garage under his apartment, closing the door and taking the stairs two at a time. His mood had seriously improved from where it started this morning; frantic, anxious, and a little conflicted.
He unlocked his door and tried the light switch, happy to find the power was back on. He stepped forward and stepped on something. He lifted his foot and saw a card on the floor. Mako picked it up and closed his door, flipping it open to see the familiar handwriting again.
Have a good birthday?
He smiled and actually felt happy for the first time in a long time. She was still in town. She had told the department about his birthday. He chuckled and grabbed a pen and scrawled and answer.
I did. Thank you.
He slipped the card back under his door so it was on his doormat. He wanted to wait for her to come back and get the card but he knew she was stealthy and he would never catch her. He had butterflies. Something about this felt so familiar and made him reminiscent of their relationship so long ago.
New Republic City was deep into autumn and he hadn't heard from Korra again. No one was sure of her whereabouts. The papers had no articles about her. There was no outcry from the world needing her assistance. Everything was peaceful for once and it was as if she had disappeared when she wasn't needed. But to Mako, she was always needed.
It was his day off and he needed to go pick up Pearl, being deemed babysitter for the day. Mako grabbed his keys and opened his door stopping dead in his tracks when his face came inches from a fist about to knock on his door. His eyes met with the owner of the hand and his heart stopped beating. There in his hallway was Korra, standing stiff with eyes wide. She lowered her hand slowly and they both were caught in each other's gaze. It took them a few minutes to realize someone should say something.
"Um… hey, Mako."
"H-hi." He stammered and let go of the door. She looked him over and saw his keys and his gloves.
"I'm sorry, um… did I… Are you busy?"
"No, oh, well… yeah I am. I have to go pick up Pearl. It's Opal and Bolin's anniversary and I promised I would watch her today while they go out for a romantic dinner."
"Oh." She said and looked down, rubbing the back of her neck. He felt like an idiot. He just lost a chance to talk with her. He tried to come up with something.
"Um, they are supposed to come pick her up at eight. Do…" He fidgeted with his keys. "Would you like to come back and maybe talk or something?" He asked and prayed that she would say yes.
"That would be nice, yeah. So, how about I come back around nine?"
"Yeah that sounds great!" He said a little too excited. She smiled the crooked smile of hers that melted his heart and she nodded.
"Okay, I'll see you later then." She backed up and waved, walking down the stairs. Mako stood there for a few moments and tried to convince himself that he wasn't dreaming. When his heart started beating regularly again he shook his head and closed his door, locking it and leaving.
"There's my baby girl!" Bolin smiled from the entryway.
"Papa!" Pearl giggled and ran towards her father who was squatting with his arms wide open for her. He grabbed her and lifted her up, making her laugh and squeal more. Opal smiled.
"I assume she was no trouble?" She said to her brother-in-law. Mako shook his head.
"She was perfect as always."
"Uncle Mako's fun! He let me ride on his motobike!" She said and smiled wide from her father's arms.
Opal gave Mako a glare. Mako rubbed the back of his neck.
"I made her wear my helmet and we just went around the block, I swear." He said, one hand up in surrender. Bolin looked at the two in a stare off.
"Well what's done is done and at least you kept her safe."
"I guess." Opal said and looked back to her daughter, reaching out to take her. Bolin passed her off and came up to Mako, giving him their handshake hug and patted him on the back.
"Thank so much bro, I really appreciate it."
"No problem. Anytime. Oh, I promised I would tell her about my arm next time she comes over so no spoilers, alright?"
"Ooh that's such a good story! Don't be boring when you tell it."
"When have I ever been boring?"
"Only all the time! Just give the story a little juice, okay?" Bolin smiled and patted him on the shoulder.
"Yeah okay." He said and rolled his eyes.
"Anyways, I'm sorry we're late. The restaurant was packed! But we'll be out of your hair now."
"Don't worry about it. You guys just have a good night and be safe."
Mako hugged Opal and leaned down and gave Pearl a kiss on the cheek, making her laugh. They all went to the door and Mako held it open for them, again meeting Korra at the door. Everyone was silent for a tense moment before Pearl broke the silence with an adorable little gasp.
"Auntie Korra!" She said and struggled to get out of her mother's grip. Korra laughed and reached out for her, taking her in her arms as her little hands wrapped around Korra's neck.
"Hi sweetie!" She said and Korra received a kiss from Pearl. "How's the cutest little girl in the world?"
"I'm great! I miss you!" She said and snuggled against Korra's neck.
"We all do." Bolin said and Korra looked up the three adults in the doorway, all of them smiling.
"I know, I'm sorry. I am going to be in town for a while though so I will come and visit tomorrow okay?" Korra looked down to Pearl. "Is that alright with you princess?"
"That's perfect! But you have to earthbend with me! Promise! Promise!" She bounced in her arms and Korra laughed.
"Okay I promise. I will even bring you a present okay?" She kissed her forehead and passed her off to Opal. The parents smiled and looked between Korra and Mako.
"Just drop by any time tomorrow. We'll see you later." Opal gave Korra a hug and so did Bolin, leaving Korra and Mako alone, standing in the doorway. Mako switched back to awkward mode.
"Do you want to come in?"
"Sure." She nodded and smiled. He stepped to the side and let her in closing the door behind her.
Mako stepped into the kitchen and lit the stove top.
"Make yourself comfortable." He called from the kitchen. She kicked off her boots and took off her leather belt, leaving it by her boots. She slipped off her sleeves and left those by the door, walking over to the couch and sitting down. She liked his new place. It was nice and clean and very welcoming. Korra heard him clinking around tea cups and a kettle in the kitchen and it just made her feel at home. She folded her legs under her and reached up to tighten her wolf tail. Her hair was longer than it had been 5 years ago, going down to the small of her back when it was down. She had a few braids in her hair, each ending with a wooden bead that was painted with water tribe patterns.
After a few moments Mako came out of the kitchen with a tray holding the kettle and two cups. He set the tray on the coffee table and poured her tea, offering her the cup.
"Thanks." She smiled and slowly inhaled the tea, knowing the scent was half the delight of tea. She recognized the scent.
"And youthberry." He nodded, leaning over his cup.
"That's a little sweet for you."
"I have different tastes depending on the day. This is Pear's favorite so I already had it out."
"She's lucky to have such a thoughtful uncle."
"And an amazing aunt who is the all powerful Avatar."
She smiled and closed her eyes.
"I'm not her real aunt. She'll figure it out someday."
"Well, you are the only aunt she's got."
They took a moment of silence to enjoy a few sips. She lowered the cup from her lips and looked at his arm, her eyes following the ice-like pattern of a pink scar covering his flesh. She frowned and wondered if she could have done a better job healing him than the other healers had.
"How long are you in town for?" He interrupted her thoughts. She looked up to him and his face seemed so serene and so open. Her heart skipped a beat.
"A while actually. I know I'm from the Southern Watertribe, but this place is my home. Things in the Earth Empire are finally settled, the Fire Nation doesn't need their delegates anymore so overall, it's done. Only took a few years but hey, that's the job."
He nodded and put down his cup.
"Where are you staying?"
"Tenzin offered me my old room but I think I am actually going to get an apartment. Or maybe a small house in the suburbs. I haven't decided."
"Wow, you really are planning on staying." He smiled and she laughed a little.
"Like I said, this is my home. The most important things in my life happened here… and the most important people to me live here." She spoke the last part softly. Mako exhaled slowly and tried not to read too much into what she said. They were still friends of course, something he was thankful for.
"Thank you for the watch. I really like it."
"I knew you would. I saw it in a shop and I couldn't think of anything but you." She bit her lip. "Wait that came out wrong. I mean it made me think of you." She said and blushed and he blushed too looking at the watch on his scarred wrist.
"It's okay, I knew what you meant. I love it. I wear it every day. It's pretty swanky. Must have cost quite a bit."
"That's not important. I'm just glad you like it."
"I do. Now I have to think of something extravagant to get you for your birthday in a few months, seeing as you'll be around." The last part came out a little snarky and Korra wrinkled her nose.
"Sorry, I didn't mean it that way."
"It's okay… it's true. I haven't been around much. And when I am you and I don't see each other much. Or at all actually."
They fell silent and Mako rubbed his thigh with his hand, feeling guilty.
"So… Bolin told you where I moved to?"
"… Sure." She lied and he raised an eyebrow.
"You're lying. How did you know where I live?"
She looked down and ran her thumb around the edge of her cup.
"I uh… I watched you move."
He was silent and she didn't want to look up, scared of his reaction.
"You watched me move." He repeated slowly.
"I've kind of been watching you for a while." She started and took in a breath. She wanted to get it all out. "I wanted to stop by and talk to you but I didn't know what to say so I kept coming up to your door and just standing there like an idiot for a few minutes before I would chicken out and leave. And I overheard you packing one night and you were calling the people to have your mail forwarded and I checked out the address that night and then I watched you move the next week and then I've been showing up here every now and then doing the same thing and then you caught me today. It's really embarrassing and creepy and I'm sorry." She stared at her cup until she heard him give a small chuckle.
"What?" She asked and looked up to him.
"It just… for a while I was saving newspapers with little blurbs of your life in them. I guess we've kind of been stalking each other." He smiled to her and she blushed, smiling though she didn't want to.
"Do you still have them? The newspapers?"
"Oh… No they're gone."
For some reason that stung her. She wondered if he wanted nothing to do with her. She sighed and put her cup on the tray.
"Mako, what are we doing?"
"No I mean… Why am I following you? Why do I keep showing up at your apartments? Why are you watching my life through the newspapers? Why… Why can't we just get over whatever is between us."
He exhaled and put his cup down. She continued.
"No matter who I'm with, no matter where I am, eventually my mind starts thinking about you. I want to know what you're doing, how your life is going, who you're with, if your happy, and I'm just-
She groaned and put her head in her hands.
"Yes. I'm stuck on you and I don't know why. I'm twenty-six and I am confused. I thought people were supposed to have their lives together by now." She said and groaned again, staring at her knees.
Mako hesitated. He wasn't sure if he should tell her how he felt. Before he decided and suddenly got up.
"Hey, where are you going?"
"I think I've bothered you enough. I need to figure this out. I thought this would help but it didn't. I'm really sorry." She said as she walked to the door and slipped her sleeves back on. Mako got up and put his hand on her shoulder.
"Please don't leave."
"Mako, just let me go. I think I've acted enough of an idiot to excuse myself for the day."
"Korra, look at me."
She waited for a moment and turned to look him in the eye. His eyes were the same amber color that made her feel safe and loved and home. The same exact shade she had dreamed about and thought about.
"Do you remember when we last broke up?"
She nodded without averting her gaze.
"I said that I would always love you. I meant it. I think about you every day. I used to save papers that had you in them because I thought maybe it would help ease the pain of being apart from you somehow but it just made it worse. So I got rid of them hoping I could just cut that part of my life out and forget how much I care about you. And it worked for a while. But then you came back to town and you got me this watch and every time I look at it I think of how much I-" He paused and swallowed, reaching up his hand to stroke her cheek. "I think of how much I love you and it hurts because I don't know if you will ever love me like you used to."
Korra let a tear roll down her cheek. Mako wiped it away and she took in a breath.
"I still love you too. More than ever. So what do we do?"
"We could be together and be happy."
"But when we are together all we do is fight. I don't know if I can do that again. That's just as painful as being without you."
"We just have to ask ourselves if it's worth it Korra. And I love you so I'm all in if you are."
She took a moment to calculate her next move and looked down, taking off her sleeves. She wrapped her arms around his neck and looked up to him.
"We can do this. We're different people now. We've matured. We can work this out if this is what we really want." Mako reasoned.
"I want it."
She nodded and more tears streamed down her face.
"I want to be with you. Please just let me be with you again."
"I will never say no to that." He said.
He leaned down and kissed her lips and it was a kind if instant gratification that can't be expressed in words. Though it had been eight years since their last kiss, his lips remembered hers perfectly and her taste was even more exquisite than his memories.
She broke the kiss and half sobbed half laughed and he had to choke back himself from crying. He framed her face and kissed her over and over again saying a thousand times how much he loved her. It was the happiest either of them had been in a very long time.
Winter in New Republic City was usually not so bad. It was welcomed as relief to the extremely hot summer they had had. But this was by far the harshest winter in the city's history, new or old. Mako's apartment had turned from a bachelor pad into a couple's cozy home, having ornaments from all nations decorating the entire place and a whole dresser in the bedroom just for Korra.
Everyone was gathered at Air Temple Island for Korra's birthday celebration. She was turning twenty-seven which was just a normal milestone, nothing special. But she was actually home for her birthday this year so Tenzin and his family went all out. The whole island looked like a Southern Watertribe retreat. There was blue and white everywhere, even outside where Naga was spending most of her time. Inside there were decorations of fake pelts and tribal artifacts hanging on the walls to make it feel like she was actually there. Everyone she wanted to be there was present and she was having a great time.
She walked off the dance floor with Mako laughing and sat down at a table with him, taking a breather.
"What, am I too much for you?" He asked over the music and she laughed again, pulling him into a kiss.
"Don't worry officer, I can handle you. I just need a rest."
He smiled and looked around. No one was watching.
"Hey, can we sneak off for a second?"
Korra raised her eyebrow and looked around.
"Sure." She said with an impish grin. He took her hand and led her out of the temple and to another part of the island, staying inside. They went down hallway after hallway and finally he stopped and looked around. She laughed and wrapped her hands around his neck.
"I know it's my birthday but I was going to wait for my present until we got home." She smirked and kissed him. He hummed against her lips and smiled, finding it hard to pull back from her perfect soft lips. He found the strength eventually and broke their kiss.
"As much as I am looking forward to that, that's not why we're here."
"Oh." She said and blushed.
"I have something important to ask you so listen carefully."
"Okay…" She said and cocked her head to the side.
"How much do you love me?"
"What?" She scoffed.
"Korra, tell me how much you love me."
"Mako I love you so much I can't tell you how much. I've always loved you. It's always been you. You have always been the one for me and you always will be. Why?"
"Korra." He said softly. "I love you more than you could ever imagine. I will always love you, my heart is yours forever. Whether you are home or gone away doing your avatar duty, I will always love you and I will always wait for you to come home to me. I never want us to not be together."
He pulled her hands off of his shoulders and dug into his coat pocket. He got down on his knee and looked up at Korra. She was confused at first. He held out a beautiful necklace. It was a braided leather choker with painted wooden beads in the braids and a silver pendant hanging from the middle with the waves of the watertribe engraved into it. When she realized what was happening she felt like she was going to burst.
"Avatar Korra, Daughter of Chief Tonraq of the Southern Watertribe, will you do me the honor of being my beloved wife?"
Korra had tears streaming out of the corners of her eyes and fell to her knees. She kissed him roughly and was crying while she kissed him. He kissed her back and held her close until she broke from him and looked to him.
"Is that a yes?"
"Yes! It's a yes!" She yelled and kissed him again. He laughed and pushed her off him.
"Can I put it on you?"
She nodded and turned around, lifting her wolf tail. He clasped it around her neck and she turned to face him, both of them standing up. It looked brilliant on her, the beads painted the same color as her eyes. Mako smiled and kissed her softly.
"It looks beautiful on you"
"I love you so much Mako."
"And I love you."