The spirit world was a strange place.
It was full of mysteries and truths, haunted spirits and weary ghosts and lives upon lives upon lives. It was a parallel in its own way, for in some sense, it was the world that could have been. There were streams and doorways and forests and mirrors and anger at all that had been destroyed, pride at that which humankind had accomplished, shame at what had been wasted.
Many spirits had been human, after all, and emotions ran free in the spirit world.
However, there were not just humans that existed here. There were also animal spirits and plant spirits and earth spirits and star spirits. Mothers, fathers, creators. Fate. There was also beauty here, a beauty that would have taken Mako's breath away, had he any breath left to take.
He could breathe no longer, though, for he was dead.
He was laying in a meadow of primrose, limbs sprawled out and eyes shut to the light. He seemed drawn to this place, and while he had seen much of the spirit world, he kept returning to this spot. It felt like home in a way, like this was where he needed to be.
His mind wandered.
It did this often, for all he had left was his thoughts and a longing for her, a longing for a movement and circulation in the cosmos to set him free, but no. He was trapped in a state of limbo, almost, as he waited for time. He waited for time to pass, to be, to disappear.
Not only was the world different, but time was different here as well, or, at the very least, it felt different. Time was excruciatingly slow and unbelievably fast, never yet always constant. He had no idea how long he'd been waiting in the spirit world. Centuries and seconds were all the same, and frankly, those words no longer existed.
Eternity was a construct, a set of tiny moments woven together. Or was it the opposite? Was time simply one moment made of eternities?
Mako wasn't sure. His merely human spirit had no access to such knowledge. That did not mean he stopped trying to understand, however.
Mako could explore the past, and that was something he did often. He relived pieces of his life, saw the happiness and the fullness and the victories he had taken. Sometimes, this made the wait easier. Other times it didn't. He had regrets sprinkled throughout his life. He saw sorrow. Pain.
It was strange, at times, being able to see himself. He could watch himself as a child, or as an old man. Both were strange, for his younger, fit body had returned to him in his death.
Mako opened his eyes and held a hand up. His forearm was strong and scarless, the muscles shifting beneath his skin as he moved his wrist. He sat up, touching the flowers, feeling their petals, soft and silent, on his fingertips. The sky was purple.
Mako could also observe the present, if he so desired.
While Korra had once explained the sensation that she experienced when she left her body to observe a different part of the world, or the feeling she got when something terrible was happening and she saw a vision behind her eyelids, that still didn't make sense to Mako. He saw things differently. He could see the present, yes, but he had to find a pool somewhere in the spirit world. From there, the rippling mirror could show him what he wished to see.
He liked to watch his grandchildren from time to time. His nieces and nephews. His daughter, of course.
He often watched her as she lived without him. It hurt though. She was very sad, and he could do nothing but wait.
He missed her.
So he lived mostly in the past and drifted through the spirit world in his present, sometimes taking a peek at the mortal world. Many things happened in his own world, though. He spoke with spirits. He traveled.
He'd reunited with his parents once. They'd told him how proud of him they were. Mako hadn't noticed until this point that there could be tears in the spirit world. With his mother in his embrace, and his father's arms around them both, Mako had realized that he was very happy here.
Sometimes he met up with them so they could watch Bolin together, and he enjoyed that very much too.
It still wasn't complete, though.
Korra wasn't here. She wasn't here with him.
And because of this, or so he thought, he was often lost in his past, craving her like he'd never craved her before. He let his emotions and memories carry him when he closed his eyes and relived it all.
Mako stood in the meadow and began to walk, the primrose rustling with each footfall. He approached a nearby stream, flowing clear and clean. He kneeled and dipped a hand in. It felt empty. Most things felt empty to him without her at his side.
When had he realized that she was his everything?
There were too many moments, too many eternities. He closed his eyes, and they came to him.
"So you do like me?" she asked hesitantly.
"Yes, but, I like Asami, too. I don't know, things are complicated. But I'm feeling really confused and—"
Her lips were on his, and his eyes widened with shock.
He was standing close to Tenzin then, tapping his foot on the ground. Bolin fidgeted next to him, and he elbowed Mako in the side. He looked up, and there she was, there was his bride, beautiful and incredible and radiant.
There was starlight in her hair.
It snowed on their wedding day.
But Korra was yelling at him then and he was yelling at her about who-knows-what but they were constantly fighting these days—
No, wait, he was in the South Pole again, running out after her, the snow crunching beneath his feet because he had to let her know that he was there for her.
"I love you, Korra," he confessed.
And he was holding Reika in his arms, his beautiful daughter wrapped up in his scarf.
"She's perfect," Korra said, resting her head on his shoulder.
"She is. She really is."
Reika was running up to him, a smile on her face.
"We talked about you and mommy in school today, Daddy!"
Somehow they'd made it into the history books.
"Look, I really like you and think we were meant for each other!" she was saying, and his heart was pounding as he lied to her.
And his heart was still pounding because he was trying to propose, but she didn't believe him, even with the ring in his hand.
"Look, I really like you and think we were meant for each other!" he said, and she just laughed and kissed him.
They were meant for each other.
So why were they apart?
Mako's eyes opened, and he was back in the spirit world, back at the stream. The water flowed between his fingers. His chest was hurting once more. He wanted the pain, maybe, the pain of the memories, of reliving it all with her because she wasn't here now but she'd been with him then. He wanted her. Her.
And it took death for him to fully realize the ache of missing her, of the hollow suffering that filled him when he thought of her and when he did not think of her. He'd watch her, of course, but it was never the same. He could not really see her, and he certainly could not touch her. His spirit could not return to the mortal realm, and even if he could, he would be only a whisper of a man.
He still had his memories, though.
He still had each contour of her face memorized in his fingertips.
He still had the smell of her skin pressed against his in the morning.
He still had her laugh ringing in his ears.
He still had her kiss on his lips, the taste of her on his tongue.
He waited as he had been for moments and for eternities and the moon danced in the scarlet sky.
Mako moved his hand in the stream once more, but it strangely didn't feel empty any more. It felt like it was changing, like there was life running through it, like it was filling him and moving time and shifting the stars, like it was all falling back into place once more.
There was a blue light that came from behind him, from the primrose meadow.
And there was a warmth.
He turned but was forced to hide his eyes behind his arm; it was too bright. The light faded, and he blinked.
"…Mako?" she said, voice quiet and unsure.
She'd died and come to him, finally, finally. It was like a dream, and Korra must have been thinking the same thing.
So he stood wordlessly and looked at her, at his best friend and wife and soulmate and forever, and he nodded.
Korra was running to him, hair flying behind her, and he was running to her, and she was in his arms, spinning in the air, laughing and crying. She slid down his front, standing on top of his feet, and he held her face in his hands.
She was beautiful.
She was here.
The spirit world was a strange place. It had made him forget time and lose himself in memories. He could have sworn he remembered her perfectly, and maybe he did, and maybe this was just the spirit world or maybe this was the craving or maybe this was just fate…
But her eyes looked brighter than before. Her touch on his skin was stronger than before. And her lips were sweeter than before.
He tasted them now when he bent down to kiss her, to drink her, to love her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled and they were falling down, rolling in the flowers, surrounded by eternal love. When she broke the kiss, her hand found his, and nothing had ever felt so right.
"I missed you," he said simply, and she smiled before kissing him once more.
She was his.
He was hers.