"Hey. Mako. Wake up, sleepyhead."
The last whisper-shout blasted directly into his ear, and Mako jerked up. He disguised his startled yelp with a few coughs as three impish faces peered down at him.
True to his instincts, he quickly snuck a look around. He was sprawled across an armchair in Pema and Tenzin's living room. Carved patterns adorned the light wooden walls, and the fireplace now housed glowing ashes. Judging by the lukewarm trail of drool he felt down his chin, Mako figured he must have fallen asleep there after dinner. Embarrassing. He must've been exhausted.
When the eighteen-year-old realized he'd been thoughtfully staring down the three kids, he blinked. They were all watching him with wordless grins.
Jinora and Ikki perched on both of his legs, and he could only see Meelo's head bobbing on the left side of his chair. So that one was the ear blaster.
"Hey, Mako," Meelo piped up beside his ear. Apparently he hadn't learned how to whisper yet. "Wake up."
"Meelo, I think he's awake," Ikki whispered to the small boy. "Aren't you?" She poked Mako's cheek.
Blearily wondering what in the world they wanted, Mako yawned. "Yeah, 'm awake."
Meelo punched the air in triumph while Ikki declared, "Told you!"
Only Jinora displayed the slightest amount of sanity. "Sorry for disturbing you," she apologized. "But we need your help."
Taking her cue, Ikki hopped off his leg as Jinora lightly tugged on his scarf. "Come with us."
In a daze, Mako felt Meelo grasp his hand as the three tiny insomniacs led him down the hallway.
They approached a brightly lit room painted yellow at what felt like warp speed. A shelf at eye level greeted Mako after a long blink, and Ikki pointed to a row of stuffed animals above his head, adopting Shiro Shinobi's voice. "And noww, the three children wait anxiously for champion probender, but most importantly tall, Mako to get some toys down for them."
"...What?" Was all he could say through another yawn.
"We need you to reach our stuffed animals for us," Jinora translated in that calm, intelligent tone only she possessed. "I mean, normally we'd just knock them down with airbending, but this late at night we'd probably wake dad. So you're our only hope."
Meelo pushed his bottom lip out, working up to the puppy dog face. Ikki had already achieved it, eyes innocently wide.
"Oh. Yeah, sure," Mako said wearily, extending his arm and passing them the fluffy objects one by one. A dragon, a turtleduck, a platypus bear, and a badger mole found themselves tossed on the intricately-patterned rug, and the kids plopped down into their fantasy animal world.
As Mako trudged toward the door, a chorus of quiet thank you's reached his ears. He turned back to smile in return. Giving the children a weary two-fingered salute, the teenager made to leave. A shout from Meelo, however, stopped him.
Jinora and Ikki quickly shushed him, but Mako retraced his steps. "What's wrong?"
"Oh, we don't have anyone to be the dragon in our game," Jinora explained. "Sometimes Korra plays with us. But it's okay. You can go back to bed."
"But we need a dragon!" Meelo loudly reminded her. Ikki put a finger to her lips, so he repeated it more quietly. "But we need a dragon."
"It's fine, Mako, really, go back to sleep," Jinora assured him. She patted her little brother's head consolingly.
In that moment, Mako realized how much Jinora resembled her mother. Shy, polite—never wanting to impose. Actually, all three kids reminded him of Tenzin or Pema in some way. He was certain Meelo would sprout his dad's impressive eyebrows someday.
They all looked adorable, with varying degrees of hope etched on their faces. And he didn't feel like making the trip back to the boys' dormitory in the dark just yet, where he probably wouldn't be able to fall back to sleep anyway.
"You know what?" Mako found himself saying.
"What?" Ikki answered eagerly, rhetorical question whizzing over her head. He smiled softly, shaking off the last drowsy clouds.
Meelo roared like a lion, ramming his badger mole into the block tower. "I will destroy you!"
"Oh no you don't!" Ikki returned, shaking her turtleduck. "We will never relinquish hope! Never! Not even till our dying breath!"
"Mako, you're on Meelo's side," Jinora matter-of-factly informed the firebender as they restacked the block tower. Sounds of Ikki and Meelo duking it out provided an appropriate soundtrack. "And Ikki and I defend this Air Temple tower from you two. Go easy," she whispered secretively, making sure Ikki didn't hear.
"No problem," he winked, and placed another small wooden block on top. Four of the sides showed the four elements' symbols carved into each, with a tiny map of Republic City on the top and bottom.
As he examined its detail, Mako realized he'd never truly interacted with the airbender kids since he, Bolin, and Asami's arrival on the island. As the three allowed him entrance into their world, he learned all of them knew a lot more than they let on. Especially Jinora.
He heard Tenzin's phrases echoed by Meelo every so often. The frequency of "don't you bring my mother into this!" sounded like a favorite, while Ikki chattered without pause about everything. Mako wondered if there was a time she'd been silent or serious.
Jinora grinned shyly. "Thanks."
He nodded casually, giving her a lopsided smile. "Soo..." Mako sensed an excellent teasing opportunity. "Korra plays stuffed animals?"
"Mhmm," Jinora said, expertly positioning another block. "Mostly whenever she can't sleep and we can't sleep. Then again," she tapped her chin thoughtfully. "This room is next to hers. And Meelo gets kind of loud sometimes," Jinora shrugged.
"Anyway, yes, she really gets into it. Why do you wanna know?" She grinned slyly. "Do you like her or something?"
"Ooooh!" Ikki's gold head baubles bounced and suddenly she zipped in front of him. "Are you talking about Korra? And that you like her like, you like like her? Can I go tell her? Can I? Then you two would fall in love and have super cute babies and we could be their godmothers and ooh, would I get a fairy godmother wand? I would need a wand, and—"
"All right, Ikki," Jinora said through gritted teeth.
The younger girl inhaled as if she'd resurfaced from a lifetime of holding her breath. Undeterred, she beamed at the firebender for a moment. "So you do like Korra?"
Somewhere during Ikki's spiel, Meelo had trotted over. Not wanting to be left out, he'd made himself a home in Mako's inky hair and peered upside down into his eyes curiously. The two girls sat on the floor in front of him, all awaiting an answer.
When did this turn into 'confessions with Mako'?
"Uhhm." Smiling slightly, he cleared his throat and decided to snag the easy way out. These were just kids, after all. "Of course I like Korra."
Before anyone could blink, Ikki gleefully leapt up and barreled for the door to rouse her Water Tribe house guest. At Jinora's disbelieving snort, however, she skidded to a halt.
"No way," the oldest sister narrowed her eyes at him. "It's not that easy. Don't even try the whole 'friend' roundabout. You're dealing with matchmaking masters here."
"Yeah," Meelo added obliviously for good measure, smartly poking him on the forehead.
Ikki pouted, crossing her arms and plopping to the floor again. "I feel so betrayed," she sniffed at Mako.
"Okay, okay," he gently pried Meelo off his head, stalling to figure out a new plan of evasion. Of course he'd never explain how messed-up the situation actually was— sharp as they were, the airbender kids were still too young to understand. Spirits, though, these kids were ruthless. "Well..."
Maybe it was his two-in-the-morning imagination, but they all seemed to lean forward in anticipation. He hid a sly grin, knowing what would do the trick.
"As a matter of fact, I do think Korra's pretty."
With a squeal, Ikki toppled backwards. Jinora grinned ear to ear, and Meelo looked around happily, unsure of what exactly had been accomplished, but caught his sisters' contagious reaction all the same.
"You two would be so adorable together," Jinora sighed dreamily. She interlaced her fingers and leaned her cheek against them.
"Yeah, yeah," Mako said, trying to banish a random blush from his face. He turned to Meelo and loudly whispered, "Hey. Weren't we attacking their tower?"
The younger boy's eyes lit up. Back in familiar waters. "Yeah!"
The sun peeped cheerily through her window, and Korra yawned widely, smacking her lips. She rolled out of bed and slowly padded out to the kitchen in search of some breakfast food, but noticed the door beside her room left wide open. Normally, this told her the little airbenders had stayed up all night narrating an epic war, but it struck her as odd that Ikki hadn't shaken her awake in the pitch darkness last night, or that Meelo's various wall bangs hadn't disturbed her.
Eyebrows raised, Korra made her way to the playroom and poked her head around the door frame. She fully expected to see three orange clad kids snoozing peacefully on the rug. The very last thing she expected to run into were those three orange clad kids and her favorite black-haired, handsome firebender boy.
Inching past the shock, she smothered a laugh with her hand. Mako lay eagle-spread on the carpet, mouth lolling half-open. Jinora's and Ikki's heads rested on his stomach with Meelo's whinnying snore coming from the other side. Small blocks the size of moonpeaches were scattered around the floor, and a green dragon lay innocently in Mako's open hand.
There was something incredibly cute about the whole thing. Korra grinned, crossing her arms as she leaned into the door frame.
It soon hit her that this could be a glimpse into the future, of what an amazing father Mako would someday be.
If this was the case, Korra couldn't wait to watch.
Hey guys. :) My debut into Korra fandom, how about that! Despite the ending cheese, I hope you liked it. :) Thank you so much for reading.