"Rohan really has taken a liking to you, Korra," Pema remarked, running a wooden comb through Ikki's hair slowly, making sure to disentangle all of the knots in her daughter's thick hair. The dim but warm glow from the single oil lamp in the room lit everything in an offhand orange glow; everything except the dark corners of the room that couldn't quite be reached. A fairly used radio sat off to the side on a table by the window (which had a perfect view of the fluorescent city against the darkening sky), playing smooth jazz and soft blues. Pema sat in a rocking chair with Ikki in front of her right across from the loveseat that Korra sat on with Rohan sitting on her lap, fascinated by the teenage girl making silly faces and odd sounds.
Korra looked up from the baby and smiled. Rohan giggled in her lap and she looked down to see him reaching up for her hair, opening and closing his pudgy little fists. His green eyes were trained on her tribal hair ties with the utmost concentration, wanting them in his hands and quite possibly to stuff into his mouth. Korra chuckled and offered him her finger instead, which he accepted reluctantly despite it not being even close to what he wanted. He wrapped his own small hand around her slim finger and tugged vigorously, surprised to see that her arm followed. He pulled again to get the same results; her arm followed her finger faithfully in the control of his own hand. He smiled and squealed, pleased with his new toy. The waterbender's arm was jerked up and down, side to side and all around as she let the small child have free reign over her limb for his personal entertainment.
"I know," she said. "It's strange though. I've never really had much interaction with kids before – you know, except for Jinora, Ikki, and Meelo, of course," she added.
Pema grinned when Rohan bounced on Korra's lap and squealed with loud laughter. She set the comb down and stroked Ikki's silken hair. "Well you're doing a superb job for someone who's never really done it before."
Korra beamed at the praise and dropped her hand to her side once Rohan released her finger, now bored and looking to move onto something of further interest. He reached for her hair ties again, determined on chewing on them (Pema did say he was teething). He gurgled and laughed at himself and the noise he produced, laughing harder when Korra mimicked his gurgles. She joined in his laughter until he reached up and clapped his hands on her cheeks, squishing them together. Rohan gurgled again and laughed at Korra's squished face, bouncing up and down on her lap. When Korra began tickling his stomach, he immediately dropped his chubby arms and filled the room with his laughter, bringing on the brightest grin onto his and Korra's face. When the tickling came to a stop, he reached up for her face once more, but Korra's quickly countered by bending down to blow a raspberry on his stomach. He squealed delightedly and grabbed her ponytail between his fat fingers. Ikki and Pema joined in his laughter when Korra yelped, obviously not expecting his retaliation, and shouted her surrender. She reached up to gently coax him into letting her go but he only pulled on her hair more, causing the young Avatar to wince.
Finally, she managed to get him to release her and while smoothing out her ponytail, he smiled at some inside joke of his.
"You'd make a great mother," said Pema.
Korra froze in fixing her wolftail and turned to Pema, a hint of blush on her cheeks. "Wh-what? Me?"
Pema nodded and leaned back in the rocker, going through Ikki's hair with the comb again. "Oh yes. You definitely have all of the qualities to be one. Granted, you are a bit young but still not that far off from the average age of having a child."
Korra gulped and rubbed the back of her neck, supporting Rohan with her other hand. "I…I don't know, Pema. Doesn't really seem like my thing."
Pema chuckled to herself. "It's not uncommon for teenage girls to deny something like that. But trust me, coming from another mom, when you've got it, you've got it." She winked at Korra and still seemed unsure and Ikki spoke up from the ground.
"Yeah! You'd be one of the best moms ever, Korra! I bet Jinora and Meelo would say so too! If I didn't love my mommy so much I'd want you to be my mommy! And Mako could be the daddy!"
Korra blushed again and coughed. "I guess that was supposed to be a compliment so…thank you?"
"Which reminds me," Pema interjected. "Have you and Mako talked about anything like that recently?"
Korra shook her head and looked back down at Rohan who seemed content on rubbing her arm. "I mean we haven't even been together long enough to start talking about things like that."
Pema smirked. "Right. I'm sure you're much too busy doing…other things."
Korra inhaled sharply and broke out in a full flush, stuttering over her words, trying to deny everything. "N-no! See…it's…it's not like th-that!"
At that moment Korra felt something tapping on her chest and looked down to see Rohan, hitting her chest and making gurgling noises and other sounds. Korra quirked an eyebrow, trying to decipher whatever message he was trying to convey. "Do you think he's hungry?" she questioned Pema.
Pema looked up and shook her head. "No, I just fed him an hour ago, so that shouldn't be it. I think he's just trying to talk to you." She pulled up Ikki's hair into their signature pigtails and then wrapped them into buns.
Korra looked back at Rohan and brought him to face level. "What is it, Big Boy? Whatcha tryin' to say, hmmm?"
Rohan gurgled and continued making sounds one could only label as gibberish. The simple gesture made Korra feel warm inside, to have this small bundle of human life attempt a conversation far beyond his intellect with her. He waved his hands animatedly, seeming to be telling her a story. She didn't understand of course, but paid close attention nonetheless, giving him the audience he wished for. She even decided to play along with him, saying things like "No way!", "Oh really now?", "You don't say!", and even "Tell me more! Tell me more!"
As his story went on, Korra felt the warm feeling expand inside her, filling her to the brim with overwhelming joy. It made her wonder if this was what a parent felt like, to feel this warm and happy whenever they spent time with their child. The happiness at seeing their baby laugh and smile, just having so much fun without a care in the world.
Maybe she was cut out for this mothering thing more than she originally thought.
Out of nowhere, Rohan paused in his story. Korra watched him curiously as he tilted his head up at her and breathed softly, studying her face. She asked him why he stopped, if he was done, but she didn't get any response out of him as he continued to intently stare at her. A few more seconds passed by while she stared at him and he stared at her until he held up an unstable hand towards her face and rubbed her cheek, cooing gently. Korra rubbed the back of his hand with her thumb, caressing the soft, new baby skin. His coos turned back into sounds, but this time was different. He stuttered over the same sound, over and over again, occasionally sounding out something new and stuttering over that as well.
Pema perked up. "I think he's trying to say his first word!" she exclaimed.
His first word!
The waterbender's eyes widened considerably and she brushed the back of his hand again. "Yeah? Whatcha tryin' to say, Big Boy?" Korra urged.
"Oh I wish Tenzin didn't have a meeting right now!" Pema rambled. "He was there for all of the others' first words but now he's missing Rohan's! Oh he's going to be so devastated!" Meanwhile Ikki had gotten up from the floor and took a seat next to Korra, looking over her shoulder at her younger brother. She urged him on with Korra, asking him to say things like "Ikki" and "Sissy".
With all of the focus on him now, Rohan stuttered more but pushed on, determined on getting out what he was trying to say.
"C'mon Rohan! Say 'Sissy'!"
"Poor Tenzin. I wish we could record this moment."
"I think he's trying to say 'GranGran'!"
"Oh Katara will be happy to hear that."
"C'mon, Rohan. You're almost there," Korra encouraged quietly.
Rohan paused and stared intently at Korra with his light green eyes. She knew that he was trying to speak with her desperately, not just with stuttered words but on a whole new level. She could sense it on the inside, the message he was trying to convey, but it was so unclear and fuzzy she had a hard time making it out. It was odd however, how connected they now were to each other, even though she wasn't related to him in any way. But they shared a special bond now, she could just feel it.
Rohan smiled a toothless grin and looked Korra dead in the eyes, holding her gaze.
The room went silent.
Ikki stopped talking, Pema stopped rambling, and Korra stopped breathing.
"Grannnndpa!" he shouted again, patting Korra's chest.
And suddenly it made sense.
Because technically they were related. However not in this lifetime, but rather her previous one.
Aang was one of her many past lives. He was also the father to Tenzin and grandfather to Jinora, Ikki, Meelo…and Rohan.
In technical terms, she was related to Rohan as well as the other airbabies and even Tenzin. She was Tenzin's father…and Rohan's grandfather.
The one he never got to meet directly. Only through her.
She was Aang. Aang was her. And Rohan knew that. He sensed it somehow and has been trying to tell her this, through their bond, through words, through looks. He's been wanting to tell her that he knows. He's figured it out.
"Grandpa!" he shouts again.
Korra lets out a deep breath and strokes Rohan's small patch of hair, pulling him in close to her chest. "Yeah," she finally said. "Grandpa."