Drabble Prompt: Can two people be meant for each other, but not made to be together? Only time will tell.
The crowd awaiting Korra at the docks was smaller this time around.
In fact, it consisted of only three people: two being Republic customs inspectors, and the last a young woman draped in orange robes which made her an unavoidable focus point.
The Avatar could not restrain a smirk upon recognizing that ethereal glow contesting the mist. She should have known this arrival could not be kept secret from everyone.
Especially those who gossiped with omnipresent spirits.
"Welcome Home, Avatar Korra," Jinora said in greeting. Her bow showcased the striking blue tattoos that ran from her shaved forehead down the base of her neck before escaping beneath her collar. What remained of her hair was kept to the left of her head in a braided bun with a beaded pick; a new addition to the otherwise Spartan ensemble.
Spiritual leader or not, Tenzin's daughter was a grown woman now who feigned no immunity to the city-dwellers' love of accessorizing. Much to her father's probable disapproval.
"Who blabbed this time?" Korra asked as she hoisted her bag onto her shoulder. The ratty, canvas thing carried her every possession which included a change of clothes, a few water-stained photos and a tea pot that she hardly ever used. Its purpose was more security blanket than kitchen ware.
"Why the-one-who-sees-all-and-tells-all, of course," answered Jinora.
Korra huffed. "That darn gator-cove has to learn to keep its mouth shut." They both chuckled at that, knowing that such a cocky Spirit could never hold back information. In fact, such an event would result in the breakdown of any and all communication methods between humans in the physical realm. It was a joke that very few people in this world would ever find funny.
"We missed you."
As if mere days and not years had passed since they last saw one another, the young air bender threw her arms around Korra's shoulders and squeezed. It was a sensation that had long since become foreign to her. So much so that she froze for a couple of seconds, alarmed. It came back though, slowly and shakily, much like the time she had to learn to walk again after spending a few too many days in meditation.
Her body eventually relaxed and her arms lifted to return the gesture, noting with a pang of regret that this was the first time she hadn't had to lean down to embrace the younger girl.
"I missed you too."
She saw him only a few hours later. At the park this time.
It was inevitable. She had known that long before she decided to attempt stealth for this visit.
It wasn't that she was afraid. Not really. She preferred to be labeled cautious.
Some lifelines were connected and would be forever, but that didn't mean it was their destiny to remain parallel. It was a tangle; a messy knot that the spirits had accidentally constructed during their play and then neglected to tidy up. The Avatar knew better than anyone how common this was and how destructive it could be.
Upon her last visit, half a decade ago, they had come together on a trolley. He, for the first time in months, decided not to take his motorcycle to work and she, for the first time ever, considered that perhaps riding a feral beast into a peace conference wouldn't send the best of messages.
The timing had been as perfectly terrible as it could be. Bolin had just informed her of the "happy news" at dinner the night before. His elder brother had bought a ring. He was days away from promising himself to another.
Any dream she had once held of them beginning anew, no matter how unfounded, had begun to trickle away between her fingers. As if their love had been a piece of ice since the beginning; once unyielding and intense but doomed to dissolve under pressure.
Back then, she had decided the wisest course of action was to leap out of the still-moving vehicle before he saw her. Other options included punching him in the face or kissing him senseless and then punching him in the face.
She stood by her choice.
Though it wasn't exactly tactful, few things about Korra would ever be described as so. Today would probably be no exception.
She didn't feel any urge to flee this time around. She was in her elements here, supported by the feel of the grass beneath her palms, the water cooling her aching feet, the sun's warmth on her cheeks and the wind whistling through her hair. She felt the invisible presence of her light-spirit friends and their heightened amusement. Though many humans chose to blame all misfortune on their meddling, Korra knew they usually did no more than encourage existing desires. She and her past-and-only lover were both here at this place and time because they had to be.
Their eyes locked from across the pond. Honeyed-amber and ocean-blue. Smiles were shared, more thankful than sad this time around. The years gone by had rewritten their silent dialogue.
Without any other prompting necessary, he made his way over along with his precious cargo.
"Hello Avatar Korra."
"Hello to you, Captain Mako."
As if this were a planned rendezvous from ten years past, he casually sat himself down beside her at the edge of the pond. The heat on her cheeks intensified. She blamed it on his radiating, firebender-ness.
"You do know you're not supposed to swim in this pond, right? I should be writing you a ticket."
Korra rolled her eyes. Leave it to Officer Stick-in-the-mud to ruin a perfectly pleasant reunion. "As you can see, sir, I'm not swimming and have no intention of doing so."
"Your wet hair and history would suggest otherwise."
Damn. With a quick sweep of her hand, Korra bent the water out of her wolftails, trying her hardest not to remember the last time they had visited this exact place. There was dinner and dancing involved - terrible dancing, mind you - followed by a midnight walk in the park. One of their million stupid arguments led to playful wrestling in those early days, which resulted in falling into the water and rambunctious laughter. Back then, locked lips came before slammed doors to ensure quiet. Goodbyes were whispered breathlessly in the shadows, full of regret, before began the shouting and relief at finally being left alone.
"I was kidding." Mako quickly felt the need to clarify. "Of course I'm not gonna write you up. I would never-"
"I know." There was no non-awkward way of explaining that it was her past self, not his present that was stirring the pain she had managed so perfectly for the past decade. Years spent ensuring the open flow of her Chakras allowed her to accept their demise and her starring role in it. What most sages chose not to warn people about was that in releasing spiritual blockades, you often felt waves of the opposing, positive energy. In the case of the water chakra; by erasing guilt, by forgiving herself, she allowed a newfound hunger for pleasure that could never be fed. This was her new burden. Sometimes it was so potent that she longed to re-embrace the guilt and remain closed.
That was not a luxury the Avatar had. Especially the first in a new spiritual age.
With a deep breath, she reminded herself of her many responsibilities, the most important of which was to keep balance so that future generations could thrive on a peaceful planet. And on that note:
"Aren't you going to introduce us?" she asked through a grin, nodding her head toward the expensive-looking pram stationed behind them.
Mako followed her gaze with raised brows, as if shocked by her acknowledgment. "Umm. Sure! I just thought…never mind. Yes, of course."
He leapt to his feet and automatically held out his hand, but she was already vertical and sauntering closer.
Inside the pram rested a child. A perfectly perfect little girl. No more than a year old. Tufts of jet-black hair curled messily around her ears and her porcelain-skinned fingers clung to a plush, scarlet blanket.
There was no denying. "She's beautiful," Korra whispered in genuine awe. So overwhelming was her amazement that there was no room for one spec of the expected jealousy or resentment or anger. This tiny being could prompt nothing but love from the Avatar, to her own relief.
"Her name is Mei-Lin, after our mother," Mako explained while reaching in to tuck the blanket closer to her chubby, little neck. "She turns one next week."
"Wow. That's incredible."
"It is, isn't it?"
Whether roused by their voices or the sudden gust of wind (again, Korra sensed her spirit friend's influence), Mei-Lin choose that moment to awake. She blinked up at them with perfect almond-shaped eyes that were a perfect shade of emerald green as she graced them with a smile from perfectly rose-tinted lips. There was a pang then, a small one but it was there, as she noted that this girl would no doubt grow up to be as shockingly beautiful as her mother.
There was no chance for further questions. Not that she would have known how to phrase one anyway. Just then their favorite earth bender broke the silence with an ear-splittingly loud "KORRRAAAAA!" as he jogged across the stone bridge to their side of the pond.
"Bolin! What a pleasant-" she was interrupted as his solid body rammed into hers with a hug that bordered on murderous. As always, it was hard to complain about his enthusiasm. No matter how many bones it may fracture.
"I can't believe you're here! Why didn't you tell anyone?"
"It's only for a few days and I have a really busy schedule. I didn't want to get anyone's hopes up."
From over her shoulder, she heard Mako scoff. Obviously she wasn't so busy that she couldn't take a few hours to wander the park, but she hoped he could read behind the lines. She was here because she had to be for Avatar reasons. But given the choice? Well, she'd rarely interact with other humans unless strictly necessary.
It hurt too much. Why couldn't he, of all people, see and understand that? Was he blind to the tangle that kept violently yanking her by the fingertips in his direction every time she dared to assume she had escaped to a safe distance?
Before she could retort in a way she would probably regret, Bolin stepped between them. "So I see you met my precious little Mei-Mei. What do you think? GORGEOUS, huh? Prettiest little girl in the world! And the smartest too!"
"I-I have no doubt," Korra admitted awkwardly. "I'm sure she'll be breaking her share of hearts when she grows up."
"Yeah…yeah…later though. Waaayyyy later. Like when she's forty. Or fifty, maybe. Come 'er you!" Without further ado, burly hands dove into the pram to scoop the baby up, twirling her in the air and prompting excited screeches from both of them.
"Bo, be careful!" warned Mako with his arms raised as if prepared to catch an inevitably free flying infant. "You're gonna make her sick!"
"Naw. She loves this! We do it all the time." He finished with a triumphant toss into the air which had Mei-Lin giggling madly before returning her to the cozy, pram haven. "Thanks for watching her, Mako. Love her too bits, but the afternoons off are a spirit-send. Especially since Landa has that giant pitch coming up and I'm alone all day."
Though seemingly recovering from a heart attack, Mako managed to nod his understanding. "No problem. Same time next week?"
"If you think you can handle it! Korra, great to see you but I gotta get back. Please, please give us a shout next time you're in town. The misuses and I would love to have you over for dinner and maybe, if time permits, some earth bending tussles to the death! Toodles!"
With no more ado, Korra watched the man she had once considered her brother jog off into the setting sun with his new baby in tow. Last they had spoken he was between jobs, dating anything that moved and basically floating through life without a serious care in the world. She could only wave stupidly as he and the pram floated out of sight, appalled that she had somehow missed this complete refurbishment of his lifestyle.
Mako was the one who had it all together. He was the one with the simple life goals of a steady paycheck, modest house, a wife, children. He had admitted this to her many times, which is why she had found it so easy to let him go. Relatively easy, that is. A dense portion of the guilt she previously carried was sourced from forcing him down an alternate path and delaying their certain ending for her own selfish comfort. Last she had heard, last she was in this city, he had been so close to that dream of his. The one he had whispered to her countless times in the pre-curfew twilight while she couldn't wait to change the subject.
What had changed?
Luckily, she didn't have to wait long to find out.
"Hmm?" she met those amber eyes once again and they burned as always. Unable to resist looking closer, more deeply, she noted how much more tired he looked. Small wrinkles surrounded his eyelids, a few barely noticeable streaks of silver shone in his usually solid black hair and his skin was perhaps a touch looser than she remembered. Then again, memories are not known to be the most trustworthy of references. Her memories were telling her that this man was the only person with whom she felt happy. Only logic brought to mind that such happiness came hand-in-hand with pain.
"If you're not too busy, want to grab some dinner?"
Over memories, over logic, her stomach seemed to have the most influence at that very moment.
It didn't occur to her till much later that an intelligent person – a sane, straight-edged and legitimately selfless person - would have said no.
That night, over a steaming plate of dumpling, Korra learned that Mei-Lin's origins weren't exactly from a fairy tale courtship. Mako's baby brother had developed a bad case of the-grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side in regards to women and had kept serial dating in a never ending search for the perfect one - who could not exist according to his ridiculous standards. Mei-Lin was described by all who met her as the best accident that ever happened to the brothers. Bolin took her existence as a sign to stop wandering for happiness and simply seize it, and Mako finally had a suitable outlet for his time-limited affections and worries.
As for Asami? She was now blissfully engaged to a fellow entrepreneur; a slightly older man who had once attempted a hostile takeover of Future Industries. Little did he expect the C.E.O. to be so determined, poised and clever. He lost her company and a following lawsuit at a cost of millions of yuans, but he did win her heart. He has been quoted stating "it was the best deal he ever made."
How, when and why she and Mako had fallen apart, it seemed Korra would never know. At least not that night. He told her that since being promoted to Captain he had become insanely busy and that, except for his weekly afternoons with his niece, there wasn't time for anything else in his life. Korra took the hint and didn't press. The subject was obviously uncomfortable for him, so she swallowed her curiosity along with a gulp of too-hot sake, both burning as they went down. Instead, they moved on to her life over the past ten years. All the places she had travelled too, all the people she had helped, her new spirit friends and how they enjoyed pestering her while she was on the physical plane.
"Like today?" Mako questioned with a smirk. "Do you think they had anything to do with our meeting?"
Korra was sure they did but hated admitting to having so little authority. So she shrugged. "Maybe. Usually it's more subtle things like turning all my clothes yellow or making my porridge taste like durian-lemons. Ya know, mini-shenanigans." There was no need to mention the time Wingtong thought it would be funny to send her sleepwalking into a thankfully shallow tar pit. Spirit-human relations were still unstable at best and people may panic if they knew how much they could control if they actually wanted.
"It's just because…I never take Mei-Lin to the central park. There's a smaller one closer to Bo's place that's gated so I can actually let her stumble around. But today I woke up and- and I just had to go there. Strange, isn't it?"
Another shrug. "Maybe. Or it could just be luck."
"Maybe." Mako grinned through the steam of his third cup before raising it to his lips. She found herself inexplicably fascinated by his throat as he swallowed. At some point he had undone the top fastenings of his collar and rolled up his sleeves, revealing the still-muscular forearms that she had a sudden vision - memory? - of grasping for dear life as something inside of her exploded.
Korra gulped and shook her head to clear it.
This was all so obviously Wingtong's doing.
She didn't know how they ended up here. But strangely enough, she didn't seem to care.
She didn't remember insisting on that second bottle of sake. She didn't remember suggesting they share a sato-cab. She didn't remember accepting the offer to sleep on his couch as returning to Air Temple Island in such a state would probably be frowned upon. They joked that Tenzin may even attempt to ground her, giving no mind to the fact that she was now twenty-seven years old and fully independent.
After all, she was the Avatar…the ambassador of her race, the only human to hold a spirit's aura encased in flesh…the most powerful being on the planet and therefore, intrinsically, she should also be the most responsible.
Tonight that didn't matter. Tonight, she wanted to be just Korra. Korra the woman; a woman who had never stopped waiting for this.
She did remember him catching her as she stumbled over the threshold. She remembered how warm he felt and how long it had been since any man had touched her. Ten years too long.
She remembered leaning close him, near enough to feel his breath of her cheek. Then the rush of cool air as he pulled away while stammering something about spare blankets.
Always the level-headed one. Always the idiot. Nothing had changed. Mako would forever be incapable of just letting go and celebrating being young and alive and so very, very beautiful.
Korra, however, had always been a gambler. It seemed that every day she was making decisions that had an equal probability of lasting peace or the complete and utter destruction of the planet. One could only deem themselves lucky after facing the most dire options and odds in existence.
Korra remembered her decision, the sudden pull from the pit of her soul, to roll the dice once again. Before having the chance to weigh outcomes, she had pinned his wrists to the wall beside his head before violently pressing her lips against his, not minding that it hurt just a little. In case his resolve proved infallible.
He tasted like sweet liquor and she became an entirely new level of drunk off of it. The invisible spirits were no doubt giggling in delight, immune to modesty after millennia of watching humans love, fight, fuck, nurture and kill one another.
She would give them a show to sing songs about. She deserved this.
He gave in sooner than expected, writhing his hands free so that they could tangle themselves in her hair and then pull down her collar to reveal her neck and decorate it with open-mouthed kisses. It was a recalled but out-of-practice dance for them; the exact moves and preferences fuzzy like a complex hand-clapping game from school days.
When fingers dared to wander beneath the hem of her shirt, she found absolutely no desire to giggle and swat his hands away as she had in their youth. She could only shudder and return the favor more efficiently, quickly yanking the always-threadbare tank top over his head and into some forgotten corner.
She had to do this. For the sake of what remained of her humanity. She pulled his face from her ear and kissed him again, slow and semi-sweetly this time, just to be sure. Allowing the feeling of it to wash through her veins down into her toes, the rush of her water chakra swelling and pulsing.
She rationalized that this was an attempt to loosen the strings of their fate and send them off into the proper, opposite directions. No lingering curiosities to reel them back together. It was comparable to the time a shaman gave her a potion to better connect with the spirits and she could feel herself coming undone, piece by piece.
After all, one of her most reliable methods for untangling a stubborn knot is to twist, pull and tighten. To play, shock, stretch and hammer into complete and utter submission.
Only with enough friction does release become inevitable.
Mako tried not to be surprised when he woke up alone. Nor was he surprised two days later when the Newspaper headline showed the Avatar battling extremists on the other side of the world.
"Are you even listening, Avatar?"
"Hmmm?" Korra gazed at her tutor with eyelids held aloft only by a supernatural force of will. She felt as if she had been listening to this crotchety, old being drone on for nearly a decade. In fact, it had been over a decade. The realization made her groan and rub her hands over her face. "To be honest, no. Not really."
With an exaggerate sigh, the Carrot Spirit slammed the book it held shut. "You are impossible."
"I think you mean improbable," she corrected with a weakly raised finger. "Impossible implies that I cannot exist when, obviously, I do. Though, obviously at this moment, I wish I did not."
"This isn't meant to be a philosophy test, young lady!" Korra chuckled, knowing that only a being nearing its eleven-thousandth birthday could call a woman pushing forty such a term and mean it as an insult. "You came here to study the delicate intricacies of all Spirits of the Harvest to ensure your species is blessed with food for the next century and you find it appropriate to take a nap?!"
"The rituals are complete, the fields properly tended, all farmers educated around the globe. What else do you expect me to do at this point?"
"I -Nay, everyone expects you to do your job. To keep things between the humans and spirits from falling to pieces before they get a chance to grow roots."
Korra's eyes snapped open then, her fingers twitching as they felt an invisible but forceful tug. She winced at the sensation.
"Sorry but…I have to go. Sorry," she told her tutor. For some unknown reason, any protest immediately shriveled up in his throat as he watched her walk away. As mighty a Spirit as he was, with millions of lives at his mercy should he choose to be darkened and hold back a bountiful crop, he sensed in this case a power incapable of questioning.
As she knocked on his door, she pretended to be prepared for anything. A woman with a silk robe slipping down her shoulder, three children running and screaming in circles around the rug, most likely a completely different tenant who had never even heard of him. After all, it had been ten years since their last rendezvous and surely this place was too small for such an abundant family.
Surely he had moved on, wrangled himself free through sheer force of will.
Amazingly, she was not surprised when the door swung open to reveal a man unchanged. Perhaps a bit more gray at his temples, facial hair fashioned into a groomed goatee that she vowed to mock him about in the afterglow, still wearing a threadbare tank top despite the obvious upgrades to his accommodations, amber eyes as bright and fiery as always.
"Hello, Avatar Korra," he said with a teasing lilt, as though no time had passed.
"Hello, Chief Mako," she replied.
Those were the only words they shared that night.
As expected, she was long gone by the time the sun coaxed him awake.
"I'm sorry," she whispered brokenly to him in the darkness, another two years and several single evenings later as they attempted to gather scattered wits.
Her hands, still shaking from the explosion she had just experienced, rose to cover her eyes. "I'm so, so sorry, Mako."
He had to struggle to catch his breath in order to respond. "What? Why? That was great! At least I thought it was great. Wasn't it great?"
A laugh burst out of her throat, unrefined and hoarse and true. Why did he have to be so damn amenable?
"You know what I mean." As their harsh breathing softened, the steam in the air started to rot into a suffocating damp. The change was her telltale cue to leave. They were loosened once more. Another chance to sally forth, try to un-stick, be free. Perhaps this time it'll work.
"I've got to go."
"Korra. Korra, wait." He reached out for her then, hoping for once that he could have her listen and hear.
If only for the sake of curiosity, she waited.
"This is enough, you know?" he said, unexpectedly stern. "If this is all you have to give, it's enough. It'll always be enough. Because it's you. You're it for me. That's all. You know?"
Many responses went through her head. About how much of an idiot he was. How ridiculous they were both being. About how if he could just get over his hero, one-and-only complex he may have an actual shot at being happy.
So many things she wanted to say, but her twitching fingers answered instead as they began to involuntarily wrap around his. As if she had no say in the matter.
Avatar Korra died alone.
At the age of sixty-two, she joined the Spirit World permanently whilst on a standard pilgrimage to negotiate with the Weather Fairies . Unmarried, child-less, yet still one of the most beloved women of the world.
Her funeral was attended by shamans, politicians, famed mover actors, street urchins, criminals and invisibles. Anyone and everyone mourned her loss as if the brightest star had faded from the sky, one that had acted as a guide for those who has gone astray and a reminder beacon for those who found home. And though the search had already begun to find her four-element wielding successor in the Earth Kingdom, one man refused to acknowledge the end of her era.
He sat hunched on a carved stone balustrade in the Southern Air Temple, silent. Between his fingers he held the tattered ends of a red scarf that he only dared to bring to light when nothing else seemed resilient enough to keep him together.
"Uncle?" An old man now, completely gray and slightly withered at this point, looked up into the field-green eyes of his eldest niece and the newest Police Chief. Mei-Lin smiled and touched a metal-plated hand to his shoulder. "You ready to go home?"
He returned his gaze to the cold statue taking center stage in this Holy place. Regal and serene, it was perfectly accurate in every proportion and detail from the beads in her hair to the thin scars on her right cheek. Still, it was not nearly beautiful enough to encapsulate her spirit; that unique glow that only appeared when two beings were as close as they could possibly get.
Mako sighed and squeezed the hand on his shoulder in reassurance. "I'll be there soon, Mei-mei. Just…a few more minutes. Please."
She hesitated, eyes shifting between the statue and him as if afraid they shared a malicious plan. Eventually she withdrew with a deep breath. Daring to trust the man who has been her mentor and inspiration throughout her life.
Alone at last, Mako stood and weaved his way through the other Avatar concepts. He stared at her likeness for what could have been minutes or hours. After a while, he could have sworn he saw it wink.
Losing your other half can be known to affect one's concept of reality. Then again, maybe it was exactly lost. Just loosened.
Thus, with a smirk of understanding, he unwound the scarf from his neck and made a complicated bow with it around the statue's wrist.
Somehow he still felt that, wherever she was right then, they were still bound together.
At the age of ninety-three, retired Police Chief Mako did not die alone.
He died surrounded by the large extended family he had always wanted. It included colleagues, students, friends, his brother, his sister-in-law, his niece and nephews, three grandnieces, two grandnephews, even a new great-grandnephew only a few days old who was to be named Makoto in his honor.
A notable absence - to his own surprise - was any regret.
For there was light at the end. Light that blinded him in an unnatural shade of blue until it contracted down into two points.
Her eyes were to first thing to greet him on the other side. They were narrowed in annoyance as she poured from a cracked teapot into a second cup that had long since been set.
"You're late, city-boy."
Barely aware that he once again occupied a body at its physical peak, nothing could have kept Mako from sprinting forward and lifting her, spinning around until both their feet left the ground. Korra let out a shrill laugh, suddenly seventeen again, and decided to forgive his tardiness with a kiss.
Neither could wait to be tangled in the next life.
Author's Note: Happy holidays readers! This is my first fic since the book 2 ending. Ouch. Though I do still proudly sail the Makorra ship, I think an ending similar to this one in the series will be the only way to satisfy me. I'm too annoyed by Mako's indecisiveness with women and humbled by Korra's maturity at the end, knowing that managing human-spirit relations is going to be her focus most likely for the remainder of her life. The typical romance of them settling down and having a litter of babies simply cannot happen, I believe. Still, they're meant for one another. Bryke, the all-knowing deities of the Avatar universe, have stated it as so. Mako may try with others, but it won't be close to the same or nearly enough.
I hope and expect that they can become lifelong supports and pseudo-lovers, helping keep each other balanced in times of exceptional stress so that they can independently ensure peace where they are needed.
This is my new simultaneously depressing but satisfying Makorra head-canon. Cannot wait for book 3 and 4 to show us how it really goes .
Reviews make me smile.