This fic came about because I told myself that I was going to write a Tahnorra fic where they actually kiss. And I did.
Let’s just say it takes place in an AU in which Tahno joins Team Avatar and helps them take down Amon, and Makorra actually did occur for a brief (very brief) period. There’s some jelly!Mako in there because I can’t help myself, but not much.
Two days after they finally defeat Amon and Republic City is safe again, Tahno swaggers into Team Avatar’s favorite haunt in Air Temple Island.
Something twists Korra’s heart. He looks like his old self again. The arrogant pro-bender in the fancy, sharply tailored clothes, the slightly greasy eyeliner, and the ridiculous hair. It doesn’t look quite like it used to, not as smooth, but he definitely took care in styling it. With each movement, musky cologne wafts from him.
Korra doesn’t want to admit that she’s grown accustomed to thinking of him as the fallen ex-bender, alternating between steely purpose and fits of black depression. That Tahno quietly soaked up Asami’s self-defense lessons, fought Equalists with a near-savage vigor, and shared a vindictive nod with Korra with she emerged and declared that she had defeated Amon. That Tahno had sat beside her the nights she couldn’t sleep, both of them silent, both only aware of the other’s presence.
She’d even begun thinking of him as a comrade. A friend.
“Well, it’s been a good ride, Team Uhvatar,” and when he speaks the smooth affect is back in his voice. “But now I guess it’s time to say goodbye.”
“What? You’re leaving just like that?” Bolin shouts while Korra sits there in quiet surprise. “C’mon, man, we haven’t even thrown our victory party yet!”
“Where are you going?” Asami says.
“Oh, my old teammates have got a place prepared. Maybe the Wolfbats can’t throw down in the ring anymore, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a future. I was thinking…maybe I could give acting a shot. Hmm?” He raises an eyebrow, smirks.
“Wow, really? You’d better give us free tickets to every movie you’re in!” In his enthusiasm, Bolin squeezes Pabu a mite too hard and with a storm of indignant squeaking the fire ferret leaps into Asami’s lap.
Tahno chuckles, dark and arrogant. “As if, street boy. You’re going to have to work for it.”
Korra finally finds her voice. “You’re leaving…right now?”
“Afraid so. I’m not the kind of guy who likes to stick around when I’m finished with business, let’s just put it like that.”
Mako makes a quiet scoffing noise from where he’s standing in the corner. So far he’s had yet to say anything. Korra knows why; he’s never accepted Tahno as one of them.
“You can’t….wait….” Korra can’t gather her thoughts. Why doesn’t she want him to leave? She should be glad that he’s back to his old self, that he’s no longer the broken creature who always huddled alone at the edge of the group and stared at them with such haunted eyes.
“Already said goodbye to Tenzin and Pema and the kids. Everything’s packed, being shipped to the city as we speak.”
“Good riddance,” Mako mutters under his breath, so quietly that only Korra can hear.
She should feel the same way. He was never a friend. He didn’t help them fight Amon and the Equalists because he felt any bond for them; he just wanted revenge.
“See you around…Uhvatar.” A familiar two-fingered salute, a wink, then he spins on his heel and strides away.
Korra watches him disappear, his lanky form silhouetted against the bright morning sunlight, and she doesn’t have to think - she’s tired of thinking. She acts. Leaps to her feet, runs down the stairs after him. Mako shouts something but she resolutely tunes it out.
“Tahno! Wait, Tahno!”
“Hmm? What is it, Uhvatar?” He stops mid-step, throws her a sidelong glance. She’s a little breathless, but looks him in the eye.
Her head pounds and her chest feels tight and she doesn’t know why. Outlined by makeup, his eyes look dangerous, predatory - but they’re still the same strange icy hue as ever. And the haunted light hasn’t left them.
“Tahno…are you sure you’re happy?” The question pops out before she’s even sure what she’s saying.
“Hmm?” His eyebrows rise. “Afraid you’re going to have to be a little more specific, sweetheart.”
“I mean - you’re back to the way you were before, but - ”
“Amon’s gone. I can actually sleep at night now and not have to worry that he’ll crawl through my window and take away my bending yet again.”
“But your bending, it’s still - ”
“So?” His expression darkens. “That’s history. That’s the past. Time for me to put it behind me and start a new life, right? Why don’t you do the same?”
His words, soft and accusing, hit her in the heart. She jerks. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I’m not an idiot, Korra. I know that you’re upset that I’m leaving, that I finally have the energy to, y’know, actually take care of my looks.” Venom slides into his voice. “What, you thought I’d stay your poor sad ex-bender pet forever?”
“Pet? Listen, mister, you have no idea what you’re - ”
“No.” He bends down, so close that his face fills her vision. She glares up at him. This is so much like that time when they first met and confronted each other, so long ago. But different. Back then, her heart wasn’t slamming so desperately and she didn’t feel so damned miserable.
“No,” he says again. “If you don’t think I’m right, then tell me what I was to you, and be honest. I wasn’t one of your pathetic friends, ‘course not. I sure as hell wasn’t a useful ally in a fight - don’t make that face, you know it. If it weren’t for Miss Sato always keeping my back, I’d have been the first one taken out every time. I wasn’t even Team Uhvatar’s mascot; you’ve got that annoying little ferret for that. Guess that just makes me your special charity case.”
“Y-you’re wrong.” To her shame, Korra’s voice comes out as a squeak - but rage soon floods her body, replacing desolation. She clenches her hands into her fists and returns his glare full force. “You’re wrong.”
“Then tell me, Korra. Why do you want me to stay? What was I to Team Uhvatar? What am I to you?”
He bends closer, the tip of his pointy nose brushing hers. She should shove him away. Order him to back off. But she can’t, because she feels like he’s about to say what she’s spent all this time waiting for him to say, even if she herself didn’t realize it until now. Even if she still refuses to acknowledge it.
“Or…could it be that you want me to be your new boytoy? Finally tired of that firebender of yours, hmm?”
Korra grabs the front of his coat. Twists the fine silk between her fingers. He gasps sharply, face whitening from real fear.
“Don’t you dare! Saying something like that - and Mako’s not my boytoy or whatever - ”
“But you like him, don’t you? Even when he was with Miss Sato. Now they’ve broken up and you guys can be together now. Happy ending, yeah?”
“I don’t….” Korra pauses, exhales. “I don’t…know. I thought I liked him, but….”
With Mako, it was always a wild ride of emotions. The highs of joy and passion (that night they kissed), or the fierce thrill of an argument, the dark helplessness of desperation and longing (every other time since). She remembers sitting by Tahno, watching the others sleep. His silence, his quiet smiles.
That was something else altogether. He was almost a cooling, steadying influence on her.
And now that Tahno might be disappearing from her life forever.
Abruptly, Korra releases him. Tahno staggers to regain his balance and Korra turns away, shoulders shaking. So many emotions surge through her body. Even if she is the Avatar, she feels like she can’t contain them all. She wants to scream. To sink to the ground and bury her face in her hands and weep. No, she doesn’t know what she wants.
That’s a lie. She knows exactly what.
She wants the old Tahno back.
When a cold breeze, tinged with the sea’s salt scent, brushes her face she realizes that her cheeks are wet. She’s been crying. Laughing - is she that pathetic? - she wipes them away.
“Shh.” To her surprise, Tahno’s hand rests on her shoulder, his touch cool. Gentle. He holds a handkerchief to her face and she takes it graciously, mopping her tears, but she’s still shaking. He doesn’t let go.
His awful cologne wafts over her and she feels sick and lightheaded, but she doesn’t want him to let go.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers. “I didn’t mean to make you cry.”
“I should be the one apologizing,” Korra says when she’s sure she’s regained control of herself. “You’re right. I am selfish. I don’t…I don’t want to see you like this. I liked you the way you were. You were more…humble. More gentle.”
“Like?” She can’t see his face, since he’s standing behind her, but she can imagine him arching an eyebrow. “What definition of ‘like’ are you using?”
“I don’t know.” Korra shakes her head. “I’m…confused, I guess. I need time.”
The last time she acted on her feelings, they created a disaster. She doesn’t want it to happen ever again.
Tahno squeezes, thin fingers digging into her skin, and still she doesn’t shake him off - what is wrong with her? “You know, I’m still that person. I may not look it anymore, but I…what, you think the instant I move back in with Ming and Shaozu and start my acting gigs I’m going to forget about all the time I’ve spent with you guys? You seriously think I’m going to forget the time when Bolin dumped fire flakes into my soup? I still haven’t gotten him back for that, you know. Or the time I walked in on you and Miss Sato while you two were - ”
“Okay, okay, enough!” Korra finally pulls away from him, pushing him back so that he stumbles, but he regains his balance with that grace he never lost even after Amon took his bending. They face each other, waiting.
Tahno breaks the silence. When he smiles, it takes Korra’s breath away. This isn’t the old Tahno’s oily smirk, but the gentle, self-deprecating smile of the Tahno she knows, her Tahno. “And there’s no damn way I’m going to forget you, Uhvatar. Or…you know, all the time we spent together. The two of us.”
Korra can barely hear him above her pounding heartbeat. “Wow, you sound awfully romantic there, pretty boy.”
He steps a little closer, but still they didn’t touch. Nonetheless she’s too aware of his presence, his body heat, just as she was during those silent nights.
“Amon’s beaten. The Equalists are over. Republic City is at peace again. Y’know, Uhvatar, sounds like as good of a time as any to think about romance.”
“Oh - I mean, I wouldn’t - if you don’t want to - ” She’s never been very eloquent, but now her tongue feels like it’s twisted into knots. Was it this hard when Bolin asked her out? Or Mako?
Tahno is neither of them, though. Far more slick and slippery, yet also far more honest in certain ways. Her heart jumps when he sweeps in an elegant bow and extends one hand to her.
“If you would permit me…this Friday at Kwang’s? I’ll reserve us a top-floor seat, excellent view.”
Strange how she had to walk such a tormented, twisted road to reach this point, but now it feels so easy. She takes his hand, hauls him up with a single smooth motion; he unleashes an indignant little squeak.
She grins. “It’s a date, pretty boy.”
He returns her grin with a - oh, spirits, is that a leer? “Look forward to it, darling.”
“Oh, shut up,” she says, and grabs the front of his shirt again, stands on her tiptoes, and kisses him.
It’s a bit awkward - his lips are cold, and due to the angle their teeth bump - but Korra forgets it all when his tongue probes her mouth, moving so expertly against her own and her body floods with a slow heat and she can’t think, can’t breathe. She’s vaguely aware of his hands around her waist, her hands tangled in his perfect hair - ha, take that, pretty boy! - and a voice, his or hers, she can’t tell, moaning softly.
When they break apart, he’s just as flushed as her.
“That,” Korra says, “may have been the best kiss of my life.”
“Yeah?” He waggles his eyebrows. “Who else have you kissed? I’m pretty sure that Mako has no technique whatsoever, and Bolin, forget him. Doubt he even knows what sex is.”
Korra punches him in the side, not hard enough to bruise but enough for him to curse. “You never change, do you?”
“Would you have me any other way?” he says, and though the voice is as smooth and seductive as ever, his eyes are so bright, so hopeful.
“No. I wouldn’t.”
And she kisses him again.